The Bully, the Bullied, The Bystander, The Brave is an anthology of poems collected by David Booth and Larry Swartz. The book is divided into the sections referred to in the title, with poems from Canadian and International poets, some well known and some newer to the scene, from 16-year-old David Ho to bell hooks, Nikki Grimes, and Langston Hughes. There are poems that make us laugh and poems that make us feel deep sadness.
In the first section, in Shaking My Shadow, Canadian poet Diane Dawber writes “I forget if we went anywhere/but I always wonder/if we were too mean.” The bully is personalized and the reader is let in to consider our own actions. Is there a time when we, too, were mean? In Going Home, British poet Jean Kenward writes “Fear kept me silent. /What was there to say?” In Caught in the Crowd, Kate Miller- Heidke and Keir Nuttall write about the friend who turns her back, rather than standing up to the bully. Again, we are invited to examine our own actions, to search our own feelings, and reflect on our own behaviour. This is the power of poetry: to move us emotionally and perhaps to inspire us to action.
Students will feel connections to the voices offered in this publication. In the language classroom, these poems can be used to inspire student writing and as a resource for poetry analysis, but even more valuable than that, the scope of the book can be broadened to encompass discussions about how we relate to each other in human terms. How does it feel to be the bully? To be the bullied or the bystander? What allows us to be brave? These poems provide excellent jumping-off points for discussions about feelings and about building empathy. They would work well as part of a class or a social skills session dedicated to building interpersonal relationships. Overall the book would be a valuable resource for Junior and Intermediate classrooms.
Laura McCoy is a member of The Elementary Teachers of Toronto.