Poetry By Heart is an inspiring competition for students in Years 10 to 13 in schools and colleges in England to learn and to recite poems by heart. Not in an arm-waving, props-supported thespian extravaganza, but as the outward and audible manifestation of an inwardly-understood and enjoyed poem.
The competition is a pyramid of participation from individual classrooms to whole school/college contests, then county contests, regional semi-finals and the grand final, held in recent years at Homerton College, Cambridge. In the process, pupils foster deep personal connections with the poems chosen and bring poetry alive for their friends, families and communities.
Each student is first challenged to memorise and recite two poems – one published before 1914 and one in or after 1914. Students choose their pre-1914 poem either from the timeline anthology of 1000 years of poetry on this website or from the new Shakespeare sonnets showcase launching in January 2017. They choose their post-1914 poem either from the timeline anthology of 1000 years of poetry or from the First World War Poetry showcase, both on this website. For the regional and national finals in 2017 they can use the same two poems or change their choices.
In 2016-17 there is also a mini-competition to learn just one sonnet written by William Shakespeare – teachers can take part in that competition too!
Poetry By Heart successfully engages young people from diverse social backgrounds and all types of school in personal discovery of the pleasures of poetry. Teachers who have organised Poetry By Heart competitions have told us it:
*was a catalyst for new approaches to poetry teaching, learning and enjoyment
*helped them to raise the profile of poetry in school/college
*helped them to focus pupil attention on the sounds of poetry as part of its meaning and pleasure
*gave their students a valued opportunity for local and national recognition
They also said their students:
*enjoyed poetry more
* were more willing to take on new challenges
*had a better understanding of how poetry works
*were better able to use memory techniques
*were more confident about speaking in public
Want to see what it’s all about? Click on this link to watch a short video filmed by Cambridge TV at the 2016 national finals.