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Do as You Are Told

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By Paul Cookson — Performance poet

Poem in comic strip format by Paul Cookson and David Parkins, which uses word play to take a humorous look at the things parents say to their children.

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Background information

About 15 years ago, I had a letter from fellow poet and editor, Brian Moses, requesting poems for an anthology about parents, Parent-Free Zone. I began to think about what parents did, said, how they are embarrassing – all the usual things. I wrote a poem about parents telling you that watching television gives you square eyes, and how I’d never seen anyone with square eyes. I also wrote a poem about dads having wind (those never get chosen!).

But the one gem which emerged turned into ‘Do as You Are Told’. After appearing in Brian Moses’ collection, an edited version also appeared in Staying Out Late, Playing Out Late, but I was never 100 per cent happy with the way it sat on the page. So, when the opportunity came to put poems forward for a new collection The Truth About Parents, I sat down and, using stick figures, planned a cartoon strip that David Parkins interpreted brilliantly – as you can see.

Shared learning and teaching

Shared reading

  • Read the following introduction to the children:

Poet’s note

My poem, ‘Do as You Are Told’, began in a school where I had been doing a workshop about what parents tell you to do. One of the children said that their mum had told them to: “Put your shoes and socks on”. I took off my Size 8 green Dr. Martens®, removed my stripy yellow socks and then replaced them in said order – shoe and then sock – to much hilarity. Thus began the train of thought that turned into the poem ‘Do as You Are Told’. The poem used to finish after the bit about ‘turning the telly over and getting sent to bed’, but I found that, when I was performing it, I just kept adding bits on. There were always more obvious things that parents (and teachers) say that could be taken literally. It’s a poem I perform in nearly every school I’ve ever been in since it was written. It always goes down well and it is still evolving. Why don’t you use the poster as a starting point for your own poem?

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