Video Clips

Blog - January 07

Two relevant classes to catch up on - first of all I finished the work on the modern performance poetry. By a coincidence the Diocesan Advisor arrived that day (thanks for the help and encouragement Marianne) and sat in on the class. Thankfully the lads behaved well. First student up performed Home Improvements by Godfrey Rust - a poem that had Jesus visiting a comfortable family, "turning the small talk into conversation", and when the couple tried to impress him with their plans for house improvements he wanted something more radical - "and smiling in a most alarming way said/I've had a much better idea/and started smashing down the walls". Next up was Will the Real Jesus Please Get Lost by Gordon Bailey. The narrator wanted a Jesus tailored to his own cushy ways, not the One who died on the cross and made challenges - "I can't accept a Christ who will not water down his claims". In class the performer seemed to miss the irony, but in the discussion that followed another student challenged him. In this work on the poetry I rely particularly on three poets - Godfrey Rust, Gerard Kelly and Gordon Bailey. I use Kelly's collection Rebel Without Applause, but there is also a collection of his material on the internet (click here) . Rust's latest collection is Welcome to the Real World, and some of his poems are also available on the net (click here ). Bailey's collection, Stuff and Nonsense, is harder to find.

Last Friday we moved on to religious themes in Drama. After a general discussion on why drama is a good vehicle to convey the gospel, we worked on three extracts from Shakespeare. All the scenes I used, complete with commentary and audio clips of the speeches are on my second Teachnet site ( These were the scene from Macbeth where he wonders about killing the king (great for discussion of conscience), the scene from Merchant of Venice where Portia outlines the value of mercy, and the scene from Hamlet where Claudius tries to pray, but his efforts to repent are thwarted because he isn't willing to give up his ill-gotten gains. In class we read through each scene first and then I showed the relevant video clip - most schools should have copies of the plays on video/DVD. I used the BBC versions of Macbeth and Merchant of Venice and the Kenneth Brannagh version of Hamlet (some versions omit this great scene). A nice touch is the way he sets this attempted repentance in a confession box, but as always check it in advance as the scene ends with a gory moment that isn't in the script! I usually stop the clip just before it.

Still on the three wise men: Tried We Three Kings by the Roches (see below) in another 3rd year class and it was so catchy that a few of the students were singing along. Not sure it was devotional! But I hope it'll make them think.

Found and used a few new poems on the subject as well - Journey of the Magi (Cont.) by Godfrey Rust (from his collection Welcome to the Real World) imagines what would have happened if the wise men had arrived in modern London: where "the flickering angels sang/Glory to God in the High St" - the students were impressed by what could happen when you dropped an "e". (the letter "e" that is!). The line about people at Christmas being "rendered senseless by too much dead poultry" led to some interesting discussion, but the ending hit home: ""the empty stable of the human heart/where the infant Christ is born". Three Kings and a Baby by Gerard Kelly (from Rebel without Applause) imagines what happened the gifts after Bethlehem - imagining Mary using the frankincense and myrrh at the time of Jesus' death. What us it that draws so many creative people to the story of the wise men? Do we like T.S. Eliot see their journey mirroring our own journey of faith?

The poems by Kelly and Rust are examples of a relatively new style of modern Christian poetry, many meant for performance. I regularly try out these with TY students - yesterday the students acted out the poems Adam and Eve by Rust, which made for some good fun - as Adam blames Eve, the serpent and God for the apple incident, and finally admits to taking just a little bite. The Eve poem has a bible reader hoping that this time Eve won't be so silly as to eat the apple, "but she does/every time, damn it/she does". Another student delivered The Appeal, a clever poem that starts out as a typical charity appeal but turns into a scathing attack on materialism, as the well off whinge about "their freezers swollen and distended" and "the ravages of health insurance". Yesterday we also discussed Dissident Voice by Gerard Kelly, a sharp indictment of the way we can stifle our consciences - using the prisoner of conscience idea, the poet makes a prisoner of his conscience when it becomes "a threat/To rational security": "I locked it up and threw away the key/I sentenced it to life/In solitary confinement". These modern Christian performance poems I have found to be witty and inspiring, though one would have to be careful. A few I have come across (can't remember which authors) have been less than respectful to Catholic Church community. I think I'll get another class out of this material, next time my TYs aren't away on a trip or in the middle of a workshop.

9 Jan 2007
I don't want to let go of Christmas! The tree and the decorations went on Sunday last, but back in school at this time of year I usually do a few classes on the Three Wise Men, still reasonably seasonable. So I'm in the middle of this with third year students. I'm using the material in the old Veritas book Love One Another - there's a few pages at the end of the Christmas chapter that give the scriptural context from Matthew, with some of the stories that later grew up around these wise men. Another exercise looks at what relevance their story has for today. In the second class we discussed T.S. Eliot's poem Journey of the Magi, which the third years manage fine with some guidance, and in fact this year it led to some interesting discussions as we teased it out. I have notes and resources on this poem on my Teachnet project. For a bit of variety I play the familiar song We Three Kings - there's a fine traditional version on John Michael Talbot's Birth of Christ album, but I like the up tempo version on the album We Three Kings by The Roches.
I've asked the students to bring in any Christmas cards that feature the wise men, which might give us a chance to look at the artistic interpretations. I might follow this with some pictures on a slide show presentaion - try a Google image search on "Magi" for a wide variety of material.