Who burns for the perfection of paper


This is a poem I taught many, many times to my students. I wish I’d had the opportunity to share this reading with them.

Having read it out loud so often, it is interesting to hear how the poet reads it; when I read it,  my students were sitting there in front of me, not really that interested, and with poor listening skills – not because they were stupid, just disenchanted with education.

I would read it for them as if it was one of them grown up, reflecting on a part-time job they’d had, so maybe I was less passionate than Martín. Because I wanted to fire their dormant imagination, I emphasized the colours in the poem, I gestured and acted out the boy straightening the stacks of paper and painting on the glue, and shaking my hand as if the cuts were burning with it. At the end I would open my hands in a mime of opening a book and then look at them as if seeing the painful cuts on my sore skin.

We would have copies of the poem which would be stuck on a big A3 sheet of paper, and then as we worked our way through the poem they would write (and draw!) on the sheet, making notes to help them with their written work later. We would underline the different colours mentioned with the appropriate coloured pens, yellow paper, red glue, maybe stick some cut out pictures of Martín himself on the sheet – and create quite a work of art.

When they’d used their notes for whatever task I’d set them, we would make a display of their big sheets on the wall – partly to remind them of what they had achieved, but also because I was proud of them and wanted to show off their work!

Halfway through putting up another display of the poems we read… there are a couple my Martín Espada here, ‘My Cockroach Lover’, ‘Soliloquy at Gunpoint’

Hearing Martín read the poem, and the passion of his voice, reminds me that as an authors we feel so strongly about our work, have such emotion in our intention  but our audience – whether it’s someone like me as a teacher, or whether it’s my bored students, our audience hears or reads it differently from what we can ever imagine!


  1. poetmcgonagall

    It begs the question of what would happen if we experienced the pain, pleasure, passion that goes into making into all the everyday things we take the granted. Everyday activities would become an intense journey into human empathy.


    1. Lois

      Sadly, I never got as far a discussing that with my students! But it is such an interesting question… I’ve just come home from the pub so I think I may have to think about this later!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.