The Brazillian Students in the shadow of Sylvia Plath.

I’m three hundred miles away  in what was once the Mill Masters house.  I’m on the edge of a valley in Heptonstall. Mist obscures the town below and above  within  clearest sky  a crescent moon. .  Sylvia Plath’s grave is just beyond the ruins of an old church only ten  minutes away. Her shadow stretches   over this house and sleeps inside.  It  was bought and donated to the arvon foundation by her late husband Ted Hughes forty years ago.  Now there are five such large houses around britian with a full year long programme  throughout each where writers teach.

There are sixteen students here from Lambeth in London.  They originate  from  Brazil and Portugal, some have been in England less than a year.   Aged
between twelve and fifteen they are learning the ways and language of England.
It can’t be easy.  Their grandparents aren’t here. Their extended family aren’t
here. The experience of separation matched with the challenge  of learning new language is not the easy path, and all this in adolescence.

This is the Arvon Foundation’s first ever  bi lingual writing course. It’s  funded by The Gulbenkian Foundation  who have a representative, Isabel Lucena, here
tonight.   Lambeth schools portugeuse language  coordinator Luisa Ribeiro is
here.  Sam Holmes a teacher from the school has an amazing connection and empathy with the children –  without his prep work this event wouldn’t have happened.  And Ruth Borthwick, the Chief Executive Officer  of The Arvon
Foundation  arrives tomorrow .  I have been invited  by the prolific editor writer and translator  Daniel Hahn and his co-tutor Susana  moreira marques  to be
the guest  author  for the students  tonight.

Within minutes of entering the house  I meet a student and  ask her  how the week is shaping up.  She waves  both her hands as if to waft away something from her face,  she was trying not to cry . “I can’t believe  tomorrow is
the last day she said. I never want to leave. ”

Later on and after they had cooked me a brilliant meal at the candle lit farmhouse table it was time for my reading.   After cleaning the kitchen they walked across the yard and into the barn – the reading was to begin.     “I know people who speak the same language and they still don’t understand  each other.”  Short pause “ Do you know what I mean” . I saw them thinking about it and  the penny slowly dropping inside the  deep well.  I could here the plink sound as it slid beneath the surface.   “you can speak the same language and still people don’t understand you”.    And from there, somewhere between the language of trust and the language of the body and the language of poetry, we  all laughed and dived in the well.   

At the end of the reading they said they’d studied my poem Gold From the
stone and  translated it and wanted to read it to me.  I sat  beneath the rafters of the barn beneath  stars on the edge of a Valley in Yorkshire under a crescent moon.  Sixteen Brazillian and portugese students, thousands of miles from home  themselves  extracated from everything they’ve known, stood and  read my poem in their language.

5 thoughts on “The Brazillian Students in the shadow of Sylvia Plath.

  1. Sounds amazing Lemn. Really takes me back. Happy daze! Would love to bring some of my students over for a course. Do you do a lot of work with Arvon? Regards, Annie

  2. Hi lemn, im one of the student you came to visit at lumb bank ( Sheep girl) and i really enjoyed that evening. thx for coming.
    sheep girl

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