Totally amazing article in today’s Age about children…read it and devour it. By Barry Dickins, a playwright.
NOT long ago I was in the merry midst of very contented infants for whom I was the guest poet. Children know poetry is for them.
Sometimes I think that’s all they know; but of course their wisdom is endless because they swear allegiance to Joy.
Happiness they are good at. Grief they respect. Death they write about.
The children I was with were preps at Saint John’s Catholic Primary School, in Clifton Hill. How old are preps? How old is Joy?
I have no idea why they were so carefree that first morning when I started to write verses with them; it was a pretty nice day and two women teachers sat in with us.
The birds whistled to each other and I politely inquired of a pretty little girl of four or so, what she was up to?
It wasn’t quite nine in the morning, and we were all sitting on the floor.
“Well,” she replied casually, shielding her eyes from the sun in the bright window panes. “At 4½ you are not up to that much.”
Another child, so small I nearly trod on him, looked up innocently and said: “I had no idea you were this old.”
Well, I am.
We commenced to compose cartoons and draw eagles and cypress trees, that sort of thing.
One boy wept in a perfect fury because he couldn’t sharpen his grey lead pencil.
These emotions are understandable in a world filled with frustrations and anguishes.
He sobbed so much his drawing paper submerged beneath his sorrows.
Later we were talking, still on the floor, where it’s always best to talk because there are no levels of importance, about drugs and overdoses, for they know everything, children.
A particular North Melbourne AFL footballer had turned up drunk to train at Arden Street Oval, and the media had swooped on him — called him moronic, in fact.
“I think that his mummy should have hugged him a lot more,” smiled a young pupil, resting her chin on her fingertips in the most nonchalant way imaginable.
“If she had actually hugged him more he might have been late for training; but he wouldn’t have been able to do wrong.”
We drew an elephant.
Lately the commentators have been writing most hatefully about the footballer Ben Cousins, calling him everything, including a drug addict and drunkard. They won’t be happy until he is dead, I think; then they’ll say he is tragically misunderstood.
But kids see all things differently. A tree can look like flames to them.
I asked a child last week at a school what she thought of Ben Cousins. She said she didn’t think of him.
I know the reason I work so often in schools is to be taught by children.
They’re the future and they trust surrealism. They’re interesting. And exuberant.
Just for once it would be terrific if children called the shots, and not the experts, who aren’t funny.
Children’s molecular structure is comic and indestructible and they know it.
And they are not afraid to draw cancer or write about the end of the world either. Adults are often the end of it.
Each year I work at the Benalla Regional Art Gallery. They employ me to listen.
I listen to the local artists and that includes kids who draw and paint and write poems.
I then do some drawings myself and include snippets of conversations I’ve been involved in. It’s fun. It’s beautiful. So free.
Last year I met a tiny girl of three named Maeve. She was putting the final touches on an incredible sort of cabinet that was half-drawn with coloured crayons, yet some of the tiny drawers in it undid and pulled out; it was definitely magical.
I asked the child how she did it, and she grinned at me and said in a whisper, “It’s not that difficult to be magical. Do try to keep up!”
I’ve never forgotten she said that.
Children are a better world. That is all I understand of this bewildering phase of our battered old planet.
They redeem everything that is debauched.
They are rather like perpetual flowers, children, incapable of poison.