Rosanna Stevens On Sex in a Shed in an Orchard, and what you can learn by doing it in a classroom
There’s this book of poetry I take with me to every single poetry workshop I run. It’s Steven Herrick’s young adult poetry novella, A PLACE LIKE THIS. My mum used to buy me books sometimes – she’d give them to me after school in the car. This was one of those books. A PLACE LIKE THIS was published in 1999 by Queensland University Press. It’s the companion volume to Herrick’s other YA verse novel, LOVE, GHOSTS, AND NOSE HAIR, but you don’t need to know that to enjoy its story. The cover is so reminiscent of the 90’s I almost expect The Ferals were occupying the space beneath that sepia corrugated iron backdrop.
As a high school student, there where times when felt like I couldn’t write poetry because I limited myself to thinking poetry was only the rhyme and rhythm available to read and dissect in the classroom. In senior years were asked to pull apart poetry until it didn’t mean what you thought it meant anymore – until it was only techniques and metaphors you argued in essays. By year 12 I could differentiate between the poetry I was asked to practice my thinking on in the classroom, and the poetry of my home-life. Home-life poetry was the stuff I could imagine to, relate to, and marvel at the music of, because there weren’t guidelines or rubrics instructing me otherwise. Two things made this happen for me: growing up, my mum used to play Pablo Neruda’s poetry, read by celebrities including, but not limited to, Julia Roberts, Glenn Close and Madonna, on a CD on repeat in the car everywhere, all the time. It only competed with Vonda Shepherd in her basement bar with its brooding lawyers on the Ally McBeal soundtrack, and Eva Cassidy’s Songbird. By year 12, when I didn’t understand a poem, the Neruda CD taught me to read work aloud and listen to my own words. I learnt to love Margaret Atwood’s JOURNEY TO THE INTERIOR– an old HSC ‘journeys’ text, that way. Also, my Mum bought me A PLACE LIKE THIS, and the book switched something on for me.