My recent outbreak of creativity (penning a small number of naff haiku on the nebulous theme of summer) reminded me of how much I enjoyed writing poetry in primary school. Despite the passage of a decade or two, and numerous abortive attempts at writing poems and short stories, my crowning achievement remains a six-line poem I wrote when I was 8 years old.
We were asked to choose a feeling or emotion and think about what colour it is, what it looks like, what it sounds like, how it feels, smells and tastes. I must have been in a funny mood that day as I decided upon boredom, perhaps the least evocative emotion ever. As I remember, most of the other children chose to write about anger, love, happiness; emotions with far more imagination and poetic scope. Maybe it was a malicious, thinly-veiled attack on the teacher’s entertainment value, I don’t know, it’s a long time ago.
After a disappointingly cliché opening, “Boredom is grey” (I feel that as a class we were quite hackneyed in our colour choices – anger was red, love was pink etc., and we definitely fell short of the lofty literary standards we would go on to set ourselves in year 5.), the five lines of sensory metaphor paint a surprisingly complete picture of what it feels like to be bored out of your mind. I’m also moderately proud of the accompanying illustrations, although I’ve never fathomed why I chose to draw a recumbent man with an undercut having water poured down his gullet by an invisible waiter.
Here it is in full technicolor. About boredom, but not boring.
Looking back on it now, with the benefit of a few years of experience teaching English (and creative writing on occasions) to young children, it strikes me that this exercise was a brilliant way of helping kids get to grips with a key literary device (metaphor), abstract ideas and expressing something pretty tricky – what it feels like to have feelings. Asking a child, or an adult for that matter, what boredom feels like is almost like asking them what red looks like, it is what it is, but the beauty of this is activity is the way a feeling becomes something tangible – a taste, a smell, a sound.
If anybody does ask me what boredom feels like, I’ll have just the answer.