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Hackney Writers

15 / 20 Who am I? Mossbourne Academy

'Who am I?
What am I?
Where have I come from?
No one answers.
Was I born
Or was I hatched?
Morning, day and night
I am getting in trouble:
What for?
Is it because of my name?
Is it because I am small?
Or is it because I have new shoes?
No one knows.
I get into trouble
For someone else.
I no longer care.
First time I would cry
Under the sheets,
Tears coming down my eyes
But I don't make a sound.
Tears, little by little,
Then a shock!
A big drop that stops me
From crying,
Then· I start to remember
the noise.'

by Vivian Usherwood

Margaret Gosley remembers when she first saw Vivian Usherwood’s poetry, as his school librarian at Hackney Downs School (now Mossbourne Academy): 'Ann Pettit came in to the library with this bunch of papers and said, ‘I’ve got this little boy in my class,’ she said, ‘He’s such a handful, he’s lovely, but he’s up and down and bouncing around the whole time. And the only way I can calm him down is to say, 'Go and sit on the windowsill and write a poem, Vivian.' And she said, ‘I’ve got this bunch of poems, and some of them are lovely.’'

With help from his teachers Ken Worpole and Ann Pettit, Vivian produced Poems, which was first duplicated and then printed by Centerprise in 1972. ‘Who am I?’ is a poignant reflection of his predicament: a child in care, bullied at school and at the mercy of ‘long legged animals’ (adults) determined to find him guilty.

Within two months the first edition of 500 copies had sold out. By the end of March 1979, 8,112 copies had been sold. It became a recommended text on the English CSE syllabus. 

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Cover of Vivian Usherwood’s poems, 1972 © Neil Martinson