Student poetry in the city

July 17, 2020


Year 10 and 11 English students can count themselves as published poets, after their poetry work about the city was displayed on a building hoarding in the main street of Chinatown in June this year. 

Students in Years 9 and 10 English Elective last year participated in Red Room Poetry’s ‘Poetry on the Block’ program, which saw well-established Australian poets Nikki Gemmell and Richard Allen present two workshops to students. The workshops centred around a theme: ‘the city’  and the poets shared their process of brainstorming and writing poetry. 

Students were given different stimuli relating to the city, and asked to create their own ideas and poems, and then share them with classmates, who were able to provide them with feedback and support.

The students worked together to create a group poem in each class. The poems were then visually interpreted by creative students at the Billy Blue College of Design, who adapted the words into a building hoarding, bringing Sydney’s city streets to life. 

“Poetry on the Block was really beneficial for me,” surmises Year 10 student Zara Lum. “It’s exposed us to amazing writers and caused us to think about things from a different perspective. That’s so important.” 

The City:collaborative poem by Year 9 students (currently in Year 10) and Australian poet Richard Allen 

Heavy feet and heavier dreams 
A city left unclean 
Pale people with unmatching clothes 
Into the rabbit hole  

Blinding lights and the roar of machines 
There are those who beg for support  
Never slow nor calm 
No sound belongs there 

The silent shouting business marches on 
It draws you in then throws you out 
You work until you rot 
Today we live the same as all others  

Breathe the smog of the tattered ashes 
The curtain drops on blinding city waves 
Conversations seen and not  
A sudden storm of people blocks the sunlight’s touch  

Perching from the highest 
Figures shimmer under the stage 
Lovely girls with gentle hearts 
And evil boys with pretty schemes   

How full it always is 
They don’t know 
Their own place with their own timing 
Each tree holds its value dead 

Quiet waters as the ferry flicks away 
Every person with a different heritage 
New people in the familiar blue bus 
Without this it would be a sleeping city, never to wake 

Bewitching sounds whisper next to my ear 
The cold bite of a concrete garden 
I plug myself in, drifting away from the now 
Who are the ones who live?