Synaesthesia Discovery

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Jazzing up Poems with Synaesthesia

Polly Woodside is a historical cargo vessel built in Belfast during the 1880′s. It had made many sea trips between England and South America during her golden days. After the acquisition by a New Zealand firm at the beginning of the 20th century, Polly Woodside was mainly operated between New Zealand and Australia. She was eventually purchased by The National Trust of Australia, and was well preserved and restored. Today, Polly Woodside stands proudly at Melbourne Maritime Museum and attracts history or maritime lovers, as well as school children.

Skye’s grade visited this historical vessel as part of last term’s school inquiry topic “The History of Australia”. Upon returning to the school, children were asked to write a poem to reflect their learning of Australian history using subjects such as Polly Woodside and Aboriginal people. The poem needed to have a colour as its title.

Skye recalled the synaesthetic white colour that he had experienced throughout this inquiry unit. He wrote a small poem, White, for his school work.


White looks like the opposite to the thunderstorms while Polly Woodside was traveling
White feels like the cold weather convicts experienced in England
White has a touch of the white people who stole indigenous children
White smells like the fresh air people inhaled at Polly Woodside when they slept on the top of the bunk bed
And White is the taste of the bland food that convicts ate.

White is not one of Skye’s favourite colours as it is plain and cold. The colour swirled around while he was learning Australian history, and hearing sad stories. The colour made his learning experience more intense than that of other children especially it triggered off all his five senses.

With my foot injury and an extended medical leave, I finally have had some chance to go through children’s school work from last two years, and sorting it out properly. I was finding a lot of interesting things they wrote in the class. The hallmark of their synaesthesia can be seen in quite a bit of their work without anyone realising.

I was particularly taken by another colour poem Skye wrote. This was a piece of classroom work from Grade 3, one and a half years ago. Students were asked to write a colour poem with expressions through five senses. Skye chose his favourite colour Gold at the time. I thought Skye had flown through this work effortlessly, but in contrast, he said he was like at the dead end of a maze without knowing how to come out of the maze. He thought it might be easier for someone who did not have synaesthesia to write colour poems as their creativity and imagination did not require validation. But when he really felt, heard, tasted and smelt the colour, he got stuck.

“Mum, you know how hard it is to put words in how I feel about Gold. It was almost impossible to describe. I had to choose a close enough feel, but it was no way accurate.” Skye explained as if he was apologising for his inadequate wording. I still appreciate the poem the way it is.


Gold is the sight of golden chocolate that’s yummy enough to melt easily in someone’s mouth
Gold is the feel of winning an Olympic gold medal
Gold looks like a pie of dazzling coins
Gold sounds bright and beautiful
And Gold tastes like standing right behind a glittering bush.

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