Wet kennings

The teacher said, “We’re going on a school trip.”

So I said, “D’you want a hand?”

And they said, “Yes, please.”

No sweat — so, this morning I bowled up with my baby, suncream and floppy hat, and said, “Where we goin’?”

And they said, “We’re walking to the beach to write poems, and learn about kennings.”


How magical, to walk to a gorgeous pebble beach with twenty or thirty youngsters and sit and talk about poetry (OK, I know — poetry’s not my forte — but they’re small so I still know more than them, right?) Plus, I love kennings.

Kennings — lots of posh definitions on Google but in short, a kenning is a couple of words stuck together to depict something. So if you’re a small boy on a beach then a bird = a cloud-chaser. 

We had a lovely time — my crazy baby crawled through saltwater puddles and licked stones, while the kids and I sat and chatted about the sea and sky mirroring one another, the granite around the bay, the spongy salt stink of beached kelp, the plunging gannets and the shipwrecks full of cannons and musket balls that lie off our shores. We talked about fossilised forests under the sea, the shape of stones that had been rounded and painted by the waves, the caverns of the tompot blenny, and who had the biggest choc ice.

I spoke to one boy — a loud and cheerful lad — who said he couldn’t write poetry. I said, OK, let’s get past that mythical girly image and the rhyming — let’s just look at describing things in a new way. We watched a bumble bee fly out to sea and I asked him to explain how the bumble bee flies and he cracked a joke. I said, no, seriously — we don’t know how the bumble bee flies — it’s the wrong shape, its body is a pom-pom and its wings are ridiculous. So how come, if you sail five miles offshore, they sometimes land on deck? How does the bumble bee feel as it flies out to sea? What makes it go? Of all the great adventurers that ever lived, is the bumble bee who flies out to sea not the bravest, and craziest, of all? We stared at the bumble bee until it became a dot, the south-westerly airs stiff on its beam, and we figured it would probably land in the sea and drown, but we also knew it might not.

So we figured the bumble bee was an air sailor and a wind warrior, and the boy nodded and started to write.


    • tu says:

      Although, I did mention to the teacher that flash fiction is a great medium for kids… It was nice to find out about kennings though — I’ve used them before, but didn’t know their name or background. (No Creative Writing MA here… my training being more IUPAC than fiction…)

    • tu says:

      Hi Pam, thanks for dropping by — I’ve just been enjoying your blog (the post about the hair — very funny!)

  1. Agree with what everyone’s said. Fantastic idea to take writing outside the classroom, too. Children come out with startlingly vivid imagery when you give their imaginations some space.

Leave a reply