Grade 9 Poetry collection

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I enjoy reading poetry although I do not always understand or appreciate what I am reading. Even though I enjoy reading poetry I would never pick up a poetry book and read it like I read a novel. Instead, I skim through a poetry book until I find one that attracts my attention and then I read that.

Ballads are great because they tell a story and their structure makes it easy to follow the poet’s meaning while free verse is harder to read and to make sense of.

I admire a poet’s ability to use words well and to draw pictures in my mind using a minimum of works. They have a great grasp of vocabulary and understand how to use a variety of language devices to strong effect.

It is not easy to write an effective poem that has meaning and a cohesive structure. I know when I try and write poetry I can get caught up in a need to rhyme and then start choosing words because they rhyme and not because they are the best word to use. That is often the problem for many students who write poetry.

My favourite poems are Shakespearean sonnets, ballads such as the ‘Geebung Polo Club’ and ‘The Man from Ironbark’ and poems about nature. I also enjoy any humorous poetry. Ogden Nash, for example is always quite clever and witty.


A wonderful bird is the pelican,
His bill will hold more than his belican;
He takes in his beak enough food for a week,
But I’m damned if I see how the helican.

A resource listing techniques poets use:


picture sourced from:

Some Australian poems about snakes

1. Read the following poems and ask which one best describes a snake and its relationship to man. Be prepared to argue your case to the class

2. Take the poem you most prefer and prepare a reading of it for the class

The Snake by Vance Palmer

I killed a snake this morning in the grass,
A lovely, sinister thing of gleaming jet:
I see it yet!
Gliding across the place my feet would pass,
In effortless motion, fluid as molten glass,
Yet live as fire, and evilly aware
Of all the magic in its jewelled stare,
The founts of poison in its being set.

I struck with savage force, and now it lies
With small ants swarming round its mangled head,
Surely it’s dead!
Yet in the sunlight myriad shapes arise
And flow in rhythm before my dazzled eyes;
Each black stick melts in curves, each tussock holds
Its crimson belly and its shining folds,
Till mind and sense recoil in nameless dread.

Who dragged this creature from the nether streams
And on an innocent world it’s presence thrust?
It’s eyes hold lust
And evil will beyond mans darkest dreams
Yet when it move a baleful beauty gleams
The shy birds flutter and shriek each lyric note
Turned to a bat’s cry in a quivering throat
By this insidious dragon of the dust.

O slender vial filled with poisoned wine!
If all the subtle alchemy you hold
To turn men cold
Had been denied you in that first design,
Would harmonies of form, and colour, and line
Fill all my being now with life intense?
Or would I pass with unwakened sense
A coloured worm that wriggled in the mould?

The Killer by Judith Wright

The day was clear as fire,
the birds sang frail as glass,
when thirsty I came to the creek
and fell by its side in the grass.

My breast on the bright moss
and shower-embroidered weeds,
my lips to the live water
I saw him turn in the reeds.

Black horror sprang from the dark
in a violent birth,
and through its cloth of grass
I felt the clutch of earth.

O beat him into the ground.
O strike him till he dies-
or else your life itself
drains through those colourless eyes.

I struck again and again
Slender in black and red
he lies, and his icy glance
turns outward clear and dead.

But nimble my enemy
as water is, or wind.
He has slipped from his death aside
and vanished into my mind

He has vanished whence he came,
my nimble enemy;
and the ants come out to the snake
and drink at his shallow eye.

Hunting snake by Judith Wright

Sun-warmed in this late season’s grace
under the autumn’s gentlest sky
we walked, and froze half-through a pace.
The great black snake went reeling by.

Head down, tongue flickering on the trail
he quested through the parting grass,
sun glazed his curves of diamond scale
and we lost breath to see him pass.

What track he followed, what small food
fled living from his fierce intent,
we scarcely thought; still as we stood
our eyes went with him as he went.

Cold, dark and splendid he was gone
into the grass that hid his prey.
We took a deeper breath of day,
looked at each other, and went on.

Source: A second Australian Poetry Book compiled by Barbara Giles (Oxford University Press, 1983)

Snake by David Campbell

Curious, I crept into the bush
where a viper lay waiting,
poised and ready to strike.

He lunged and thrust forward,
and I felt his fangs penetrate
deep into my body.

As his body coiled around
mine, warmth swept over me,
yet inside I became cold.

With each successive pump,
I could feel his venom
flowing through my body.

My own blood now mixing
with his poison, I slowly
feel myself dying.

Slipping away, my body
remains, but now merely
a shell.

the viper slithers off
to find his next victim

Snake by D H Lawrence


A snake came to my water-trough
On a hot, hot day, and I in pyjamas for the heat,
To drink there.
In the deep, strange-scented shade of the great dark carob-tree
I came down the steps with my pitcher
And must wait, must stand and wait, for there he was at the trough before

He reached down from a fissure in the earth-wall in the gloom
And trailed his yellow-brown slackness soft-bellied down, over the edge of
the stone trough
And rested his throat upon the stone bottom,
And where the water had dripped from the tap, in a small clearness,
He sipped with his straight mouth,
Softly drank through his straight gums, into his slack long body,

Someone was before me at my water-trough,
And I, like a second comer, waiting.

He lifted his head from his drinking, as cattle do,
And looked at me vaguely, as drinking cattle do,
And flickered his two-forked tongue from his lips, and mused a moment,
And stooped and drank a little more,
Being earth-brown, earth-golden from the burning bowels of the earth
On the day of Sicilian July, with Etna smoking.
The voice of my education said to me
He must be killed,
For in Sicily the black, black snakes are innocent, the gold are venomous.

And voices in me said, If you were a man
You would take a stick and break him now, and finish him off.

But must I confess how I liked him,
How glad I was he had come like a guest in quiet, to drink at my water-trough
And depart peaceful, pacified, and thankless,
Into the burning bowels of this earth?

Was it cowardice, that I dared not kill him? Was it perversity, that I longed to talk to him? Was it humility, to feel so honoured?
I felt so honoured.

And yet those voices:
If you were not afraid, you would kill him!

And truly I was afraid, I was most afraid, But even so, honoured still more
That he should seek my hospitality
From out the dark door of the secret earth.

He drank enough
And lifted his head, dreamily, as one who has drunken,
And flickered his tongue like a forked night on the air, so black,
Seeming to lick his lips,
And looked around like a god, unseeing, into the air,
And slowly turned his head,
And slowly, very slowly, as if thrice adream,
Proceeded to draw his slow length curving round
And climb again the broken bank of my wall-face.

And as he put his head into that dreadful hole,
And as he slowly drew up, snake-easing his shoulders, and entered farther,
A sort of horror, a sort of protest against his withdrawing into that horrid black hole,
Deliberately going into the blackness, and slowly drawing himself after,
Overcame me now his back was turned.

I looked round, I put down my pitcher,
I picked up a clumsy log
And threw it at the water-trough with a clatter.

I think it did not hit him,
But suddenly that part of him that was left behind convulsed in undignified haste.
Writhed like lightning, and was gone
Into the black hole, the earth-lipped fissure in the wall-front,
At which, in the intense still noon, I stared with fascination.

And immediately I regretted it.
I thought how paltry, how vulgar, what a mean act!
I despised myself and the voices of my accursed human education.

And I thought of the albatross
And I wished he would come back, my snake.

For he seemed to me again like a king,
Like a king in exile, uncrowned in the underworld,
Now due to be crowned again.

And so, I missed my chance with one of the lords
Of life.
And I have something to expiate:
A pettiness.

Here is a reading of the poem


Well read poetry can be powerful. Listen to the brief biography of a man called Frederick Douglas followed by the words of a poem about him written by Robert Hayden. Then listen to a reading of the poem which I find quite moving and powerful.

I want this to illustrate the idea that poetry is to be heard and listened to as much as, if not more than, being read.

Frederick Douglass

When it is finally ours, this freedom, this liberty, this beautiful
and terrible thing, needful to man as air,
usable as earth; when it belongs at last to all,
when it is truly instinct, brain matter, diastole, systole,
reflex action; when it is finally won; when it is more
than the gaudy mumbo jumbo of politicians:
this man, this Douglass, this former slave, this Negro
beaten to his knees, exiled, visioning a world
where none is lonely, none hunted, alien,
this man, superb in love and logic, this man
shall be remembered. Oh, not with statues’ rhetoric,
not with legends and poems and wreaths of bronze alone,
but with the lives grown out of his life, the lives
fleshing his dream of the beautiful, needful thing.


1. When you hear this read what does it sound like? Does it sound like a poem? What form of rhythm is employed?
2. The poet uses the techniques of repetition and reiteration. How does the poet do this and what is the effect?

Robin Williams explained the power and worth of poetry very well in the film Dead Poets Society. Here is a clip


Find a poem about nature – preferably an Australian poem – and prepare a reading of the poem to present to the whole class.

As part of the presentation you need to tell us the following things:

1. Why you chose the poem
2. What you like about it
3. What you think the poet is trying to express and
4. How your prepared reading attempts to convey the poet’s meaning

In class we will be reading out loud a range of poems as well as doing a group verse reading

Here is a beautiful piece of writing about nature on a moonlit night

Slowly, silently, now the moon
Walks the night in her silver shoon;
This way, and that, she peers, and sees
Silver fruit upon silver trees;
One by one the casements catch
Her beams beneath the silvery thatch;
Couched in his kennel, like a log,
With paws of silver sleeps the dog;
From their shadowy cote the white breasts peep
Of doves in silver feathered sleep
A harvest mouse goes scampering by,
With silver claws, and silver eye;
And moveless fish in the water gleam,
By silver reeds in a silver stream.

Walter de la Mare (1873-1958)

Here is a poem using an extended metaphor of autumn

Gold leaves (G K Chesterton)

Lo! I am come to autumn,
When all the leaves are gold;
Grey hairs and golden leaves cry out
The year and I are old.

In youth I sought the prince of men,
Captain in cosmic wars,
Our Titan, even the weeds would show
Defiant, to the stars.

But now a great thing in the street
Seems any human nod,
Where shift in strange democracy
The million masks of God.

In youth I sought the golden flower
Hidden in wood or wold, [ 1 ]
But I am come to autumn,
When all the leaves are gold.

This website gives some explanations for the poem

Group verse speaking

In this activity a group of people take on the role that one person would when reading a poem out loud. They share the load, sometimes speaking together, sometimes singly and sometimes in smaller groups but always seeking to get the poets ideas across.

The first video gives some tips on reciting poetry then the next two are examples of group verse speaking.

Here is a poem that could be used for verse speaking

Grand-Father’s Clock

My grand-father’s clock was too large for the shelf,
So it stood ninety years on the floor;
It was taller by half than the old man himself,
Though it weighed not a penny weight more.
It was bought on the morn of the day that he was born,
And was always his treasure and pride;
But it stopp’d short never to go again
When the old man died.

Ninety years, without slumbering (tick, tick, tick, tick)
His life seconds numbering (tick, tick, tick, tick)
It stopp’d short never to go again
When the old man died.

In watching its pendulum swing to and fro,
Many hours had he spent while a boy;
And in childhood and manhood the clock seemed to know
And to share both his grief and his joy.
For it struck twenty-four when he entered at the door,
With a blooming and beautiful bride;
But it stopp’d short never to go again
When the old man died.

Ninety years, without slumbering (tick, tick, tick, tick)
His life seconds numbering (tick, tick, tick, tick)
It stopp’d short never to go again
When the old man died.

My grandfather said that of those he could hire,
Not a servant so faithful he found;
For it wasted no time, and had but one desire —
At the close of each week to be wound.
And it kept in its place — not a frown upon its face,
And its hands never hung by its side;
But it stopp’d short never to go again
When the old man died.

Ninety years, without slumbering (tick, tick, tick, tick)
His life seconds numbering (tick, tick, tick, tick)
It stopp’d short never to go again
When the old man died.

It rang an alarm in the dead of the night —
An alarm that for years had been dumb;
And we knew that his spirit was pluming for flight —
That his hour of departure had come.
Still the clock kept the time, with a soft and muffled chime,
As we silently stood by his side;
But it stopp’d short never to go again
When the old man died.

Ninety years, without slumbering (tick, tick, tick, tick)
His life seconds numbering (tick, tick, tick, tick)
It stopp’d short never to go again
When the old man died.
Henry Clay Work

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Now find your own and prepare it for me-and possibly for an assembly (shock/horror)

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