My rating: 4 of 5 stars
An intoxicating and fiery experience, ‘Did I hear you write?’ remains a powerful book today. Published in 1989 by the estimable Michael Rosen, it details his work with children in classrooms and the development of writing skills. It’s quite fascinating to see Rosen, even then, rail against the more restrictive of teaching practices and actively advocate a child-led experience. This ultimately ends up in the creation of what he refers to as an “oral writing” culture; a writing led by reality, and by truth – the child writes the orality of their context, rather than that of some awkward other.
I don’t think I really learnt how to write properly until I got to university. It was there that I gained the confidence to, in a manner of speaking, throw the tools out of the window. I realised the key thing that language is there to serve you, and not you the language. Admittedly there were days when I just sat there, listened to a lecture going “How many yous are you a you too?” and felt my head explode, but there were days when I felt my whole mind expanding because somebody said it was okay to do what I wanted to do.
This is something I think Rosen handles brilliantly. In a way through this book (I particularly loved the ‘hot-dog’ word shape poem in it) he legitimises creativity and I think that’s a massive, massive thing.
Naturally there are some elements and references which have dated now, and I’d welcome Rosen revisiting this book. I’d be interested to see what, or if, anything has changed in his attitudes. Irrespective of this, I think this book is really rather fascinating.