What I Saw

What I Saw

What I Saw

I’ll tell you what I did in town
I saw a greengrocer in the underground
with his pockets full of oranges
a paperboy yawned
so you could see his tonsils;
there was one old football boot,
lying in City Square
and round the ‘Island’ came the man outside
the Odeon with blue hair
riding on a moped with uniform flying.
A hamster saw a parrot sneeze
the shop ‘blinds’ flapped
and an oil-tanker squealed
the peanut man
lost a bag beneath a bus’s wheels
‘Watch it!’ a girl shouted,
his tray was slipping and a taxi hooted
‘O help me, then,’ he called out
I said, ‘Where?, I’m sorry, where?’
And forty thousand pigeons climbed into the air.

What I Saw

This is a poem about going out and looking.

Some of it is really, really what I saw and one or two bits are things that I’ve invented. That’s OK! I was trying to create a scene. You’ll see that it starts slowly, and then slowly builds up speed. You may also see that it doesn’t have a regular rhythm and rhyme and some of the end-words on the lines are what are called ‘half-rhymes’ like ‘shouted’ and ‘hooted’, or words that only rhyme with the vowel-sounds in the middle like ‘sneeze’ and ‘squealed’.

Rhyme is a way of helping link ideas together, creating an idea that you can half-know what’s coming next. You can of course do this very regularly, but if you wanted to create a scene that is a bit of a muddle, a bit higgledy-piggledy – as I did here – then doing this kind of irregular rhyme helped me create that picture.

So here’s a writing idea:

create a scene out of what you saw and what you might have seen. If it’s a very regular, peaceful scene then you can make your rhythm and rhyme very regular and peaceful too. If it’s a big of a jumble then you can make your rhythms and rhymes in a jumble too. In my poem I built up the pace of the events. You could do that. Or you could do it the other way round: things could start off being in a rush and then slow down. Or in some other shape – quick, slow, quick? Or slow, quick, slow. One way you can do quick is to use short words and short sentences and phrases. One way you can do slow, is to write longer phrases and longer sentences. This way, you use the ‘music’ of words to help you say what you want to say, or as we say when we write about poems: ‘we use the sound of the poem to convey meaning.’

Hah! Perhaps as you read that last bit, you thought it had all got too complicated. Don’t worry. Keep it simple: just see if you can make up a poem out of the things you see when you go out. Start off with a list and see if you can make the list have a bit of a rhythm.

If you’re with some other people, you could say the poems together, by taking it in turns. Perhaps you could make a chorus that you all say together – something like:

‘I’ll tell you what I did…”


‘I’ll tell you what I saw…”

Or anything you think sounds good.

1 Comment

  1. Polly 5 years ago

    Love this idea. Wish my nine year old son’s teacher would do this in class instead of all the dull SATS prep grammar. She tells me his writing level is much lower than his reading ability. Personally I think it’s perfectionist thing: “I’m trying to think of a good sentence opener,” he tells me in frustration as he leans on a blank piece of paper at homework time. I blame the horrible teaching to the test culture that is ruining our children’s education. Very sad.

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