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To thine own self be true...

Katharine Orton’s poem - To Make my Heart

Who created it?

Katharine Orton



Katharine is a children’s author and wrote the books Nevertell and Glassheart.


My creative response

To Make my Heart

To make my heart I take the rabbit lamp I had as a child

And crush it together with the smell by the river on my walk home from school:

Of deadly nightshade and rotting things.

I cast in barefoot mud-stomping and searching for the right words:

No, I’m not asleep. Just thinking.

I throw in Snarks and Wild Things

Parties in Nan’s garden and New Years’ evenings

Catching firework ash on The Mound in mittens.

Not forgetting

Taking a wrong turn and ending up in a shopping centre

Instead of Leicester

Every time.

I clamp it all together and throw it on the fire, chanting

In you go, courage, compassion, and taking a stand

Defiance, a bit of you is good too. And boundaries. (I need you most of all)

Begone apathy, fear and the urge to hide

And take that yardstick for measuring my worth against others with you:

None of you are needed any more.

I am I, and this is my heart

Flame-licked and gleaming in my hands. Still warm.


About my creative response

 “In my book, Glassheart, there’s a character called the Soldier who makes his own heart using glass and sorcery. And, because hearts have become so symbolic of a person’s true self (shown in phrases like ‘follow your heart,’ etc) a poem about making my heart – almost as if I was one of the witches from Macbeth, stirring up a spell – felt like a fun way to explore ‘This above all, to thine own self be true’.”

“I took inspiration from a poem called The Table by Edip Cansever (which I read in the book How to Grow Your Own Poem by Kate Clanchy), which has a similar structure. I thought about what I’d put in to make my own heart: memories, places, habits, as well as the things I want more of, and actively banishing the things I want less of. I tried to be selective (otherwise it could’ve gone on forever) and to make it as surprising – and true – as possible.”


When have you been ‘true to yourself’?

“I have a hard time saying ‘no’ sometimes, because I don’t want to upset people. But the result is that I can become upset when others cross a line that they don’t always know is there. Standing up for myself and saying when I don’t feel comfortable, don’t agree with something or don’t want to do something is difficult, but I’ve learned it’s also necessary.”


What is your favourite Shakespeare quote and why?


Try this!

Would you like to have a go at a poem or piece of creative writing like this yourself? If so, you could try starting with the words 'To make my heart, I…' and then think about what you might put in.

I did mine by writing a long list of memories and things that were or are important to me and choosing just a few. I then thought about the things I wanted more of (like courage) and things I’d quite like to get rid of altogether (the yardstick for measuring my worth against others). What will you say as you prepare it? I chose ‘I am I’, because this is something I wrote in a book when I was very little, and I think it fits quite well with the theme.

You don’t have to stick with these ideas: you really could add in anything. Your favourite foods, your hopes and dreams for the future, things about you that are unique or parts of your identity that you feel define you, key moments and people in your life… there’s so much to choose from!

It might be fun to think about how you would make it, too. Will you forge it in a fiery furnace, like mine? Or stir it up in a bubbling cauldron (‘Hubble, bubble, toil and trouble,’ anyone?). You could even pretend to bake your heart in the oven like a cake.

Have fun making your heart!