As her residency drew to a close, Quay Words Summer 2019 writer-in-residence, Louisa Adjoa Parker worked with Sequoia Class of Newtown Primary School, exploring poetry inspired by Exeter Custom House and the river. Here, she tells us about it.

Poems written by Year 4 Sequoia Class, Newton Primary School

(from a writing workshop with Louisa Adjoa Parker on 24th July 2019)

The day before Year 4’s Sequoia Class broke up for their summer holidays, they came to a creative writing workshop I delivered at the Customs House. These students were the very first children to attend a writing-based event there!

We began the session by taking a reflective walk along the river Exe. I asked the children to write down anything they saw, adjectives to describe these things, and to pay attention to the little things as well as how they felt. On our return, I shared some poems for inspiration. Then the children looked at the display panels and I asked them to choose one thing, a snippet of the building’s history that interested them to share with the group. I then shared something I’d written, which was the beginnings of my prose poem, Let the river sing, and provided a couple of other models, to give them ideas of a structure they could base their poem around. Using a mixture of the notes they had written during the walk, notes from our discussion, and their brilliant imaginations, the class then wrote their own poems.

I have recently begun delivering nature writing workshops, and there is something special about observing your surroundings with others, especially young people. You can create the time and space to be mindful, pay attention to the little things. You notice the fallen log on the river, the row of seagulls at the weir, perched on the point where the water falls, the teasels and reeds and bulrushes growing by, and in, the water. The way the water glimmers with light, the bright red of the kayaks. The egg-yolk yellow lichen on a bridge. The pale, wide sky. The light.

Here are the poems Sequoia Class wrote as a result of their visit to the Customs House. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I have!

River Quay Walk
Come past the river glistening in the sun
Near the harbour houses where the ships
Deliver their goods from all around the world.

Come past the squabbling birds
on the flowing river
as the boats pass to the Custom House.

Come past the flowery meadows
near the riverbank where lighthouses
are built with huge navigation lights.

Adventures by the Quay
What can I hear? Birds flapping their feathers.
What can I see? Beautiful meadows blooming with life.
What can I smell? The lovely scent of flowers
and the river’s fresh water.
What can I feel? Bumpy rocks with sharp tips.
What can I do? Explore and have fun!

By L.
(after ‘Adventures in the Italian Garden’ by a pupil at Shaldon Primary School written as part of the Write Botanical Project)

Walk with me around the quay
Walk with me
and see the river flow,
the swans floating along,
fish swimming through.

Walk with me
and see the plants grow,
the trees collecting sunlight,
flowers blossoming.

Walk with me
and see shops selling gifts,
the little children happy.
It’s a great place to go.

By M.A.

Come with me
What can I see? A dragonfly gliding like a fly.
What can I hear? Seagulls hovering in the blue sky.
What can I feel? The ground, as hard as a rock.
What can I do? Walk beside a gate I can lock.

By M

Present, Past, Future
As I entered the Customs House,
the artefacts were too many to count,
340 years it’s stood.
If I was there when it was built
I would:

visit more than often,
and when my life came to an end,
my children would visit there,
they would run up every stair
to see the Customs House.

By G & J

The Quay
Walk with me,
by the glimmering riverside.
Walk with me,
hear the energetic squawking of the seagulls.
Walk with me
Past the Customs House.
Walk with me,
stare up at the beautiful, blue sky.
Walk with me,
and see the wonders of the quay.

By D.

The Quay
There was a big steel structure covering the beautiful sky
while the sparrows glide in the distance.

There was a colourful, gigantic bridge shining in the pretty view.

There was a man-made structure reflecting the light.

There was a pond with tiny tadpoles swimming in the water
while the pond reflected the atmosphere.

By B.

Walk with me
What can you see?
I can see the glimmering water
and the ripples formed
by the howling wind.

What can you hear?
I can hear seagulls squabbling
for fish in the inky black river.

By E.

The Shining
The shining sun
on my feet.

The shining sun
on the water.

The shining sun
on the butterfly’s wings.

The shining sun
on the weeds.

By R.

What can I see? The shimmering sun on water.
What can I smell? Some ….?
What can I hear? Seagulls making squawing sounds,
and the sound of crashing water.
What can I feel? The …? Touching my body smoothly.

By S.W

River Walk
Come walk with me,
past the shining black canons
at the entrance of the customs house.
Come walk with me,
past tall buildings towering over our heads.
Come walk with me, a
long the rough cobblestone path
that once horses trotted across.
Come walk with me,
past the blossom tree.
Come walk with me,
past the rushing waterfall.
Come walk with me,
past the fresh riverweed.
Come rest with me,
in the cool shade after a long day.

By R.

Walk with me
Walk with me,
around the customs house.
The inky blue doors with a metal lock.
The Russian canons, black as the night sky.
The grand staircase, where we imagine
ladies swooping down in lacy dresses.

Walk with me,
around the customs house.
The flowers above me daydreaming,
singing their blossoming song.
The angels with silk covers? flowing in the wind.

Walk with me,
around the customs house.
Past the King’s Pipe, the cobblestones
pressing on my feet.
The smell of the burnt past whispers in my ear.
The past of my relatives sends shivers down my spine.

By E.

The Splashing River
The splashing river is glimmering.
It reflects the sun, but you can see
the riverweed at the bottom of the river,
where little fish go to swim.

By L.

The Kingfisher
Walk with me around the quay.
Look there! It’s a kingfisher!
Britain’s most colourful bird –
a scarce but regular visitor
to gardens near the water.

By S.

River Walk
Walk with me, on this summer’s day.
Walk with me to see the sun shining
on the glimmering water. Walk with me
to see dragonflies buzzing, and butterflies
pollinating the flowers. Walk with me
to see birds flying over polluted waters.
Walk with me to see the fresh, green trees.
Walk with me to see what nature is about.
Walk with me to see how many species
of animals there are. Walk with me
to see tadpoles swimming in the waters.

By T.E.

Walk with me
Walk with me,
next to the blue glimmering river
and the fresh, green trees.

Walk with me,
listening to the gentle swaying of the trees,
and the sound of feet on soft, green grass.

Walk with me,
and smell the scent of flowers along the river,
and the ??? swaying along the gentle stream.

The Quay with me
Walk with me beside the quay, on a lovely morning.
It’s sunny outside, beside the tide, where nothing is ever boring.
Walk with me beside the quay and try to climb up high.
Can you see the paddleboats bob up and down the sparkly river?
How about the willow trees covering the path?
Walk with me up the giant staircase to the never-ending tower.
Walk with me along the quay, picking up the plastic that’s killing fish.
Walk with me along the quay, and we can say goodbye.

By J.