Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary, Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore, While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping, As of someone gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door. “‘Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door— Only this, and nothing more.”
Edgar Allen Poe
Raven has come tapping at the chamber door, urging everyone to include her in some writing or art.
When I work with young children I always introduce myself as a word magician who has the power to draw writing from each of them. One of my favourite activities is to produce some Animal Oracle Cards and Edgar Allen’s famous poem, particularly emphasising the idea of a raven having come tapping at our chamber door.
As I chat with them, as we listen to a reading of Poe’s ‘The Raven’ I suggest that everyone begin to draw, to write down words, identify feelings and consider sketching a raven.
My students at LaTrobe Secondary College really loved it when we gathered up our workbooks and went outside to observe the raven colony that called the school grounds home, watching, looking for leftovers from lunch.
While they were outside I told them to set up a vocabulary page in their workbook,
metallic black feathers
Suspicious and confident beasts
Steadily on jagged wings
Feathers black against a burning sky
Spread your wings and ride the wind
Feathers spread wide, leaning into the wind, beak raised to the sky.
to draw an abandoned site and to imagine that it is inhabited by a murder of ravens.
At the completion of all of this activity, I ask students to share some of the words that have appeared on what were blank pages. Then I ask them what the magic trick was. They invariably say that the secret was that they were given an idea to work with.
We discuss how we might build upon a base idea.
- gather pictures and taking photographs
- keep sketching and build-up material before trying to write anything substantial.
- browse through the internet, research and find out about the symbolism of birds and the symbolism of the raven in particular.
- read about the Raven in mythology. For example, in the ‘Seven Ravens’ the little girl is prepared to endure a challenging pilgrimage to find her brothers.
- read the landmark gothic tale, The Birds, by Daphne du Maurier or watch the movie version. In this chilling tale the bird’s revolt against humankind. The story later became a Hitchcock movie – dated maybe, but still a good movie.
- keep adding to a vocabulary page.
- play with magnetic poetry to form some more ideas.
Having done all of this we write freely for twenty minutes making sure not to worry if the initial piece is incoherent or full of grammatical errors for this is only the beginning of the process. There are many more decisions to be made!
Perhaps you will, like me, be happy to find expression and make a statement by drawing. Or you might choose to take a series of photographs.
Maybe you will end up creating a graphic novel, write a play, make a video of reading a poem or whatever. The possibilities are endless.