2nd January 2015
In January and Feburary 2015 the county round of Poetry By Heart will be taking place up and down the country in arts centres, libraries and museums. In forty two different venues students will be reciting not only their pre and post 1914 poems but also a poem chosen from the special Poetry By Heart World War One showcase. In another January Blog post Tom Boughen talks about new additions to the showcase whilst in this article Anne Caldwell reflects on how she made use of the showcase within a memorable World War One commemorative event in Bolton.
I am a poet and currently the Programme Director for the National Association for Writers in Education. I also teach creative writing at the University of Bolton, where I run a live literature series in the town to encourage our undergraduate students to get involved in the wider literary life of the North West, hear writers of all genres read their work and talk passionately about their writing lives.
As part of the First World War commemorative events, the Bolton Octagon theatre revived the play, Early One Morning, https://octagonbolton.co.uk/early-one-morning written by a Bolton based Playwright, Les Smith to great critical acclaim. I wanted my students to also have a chance to perform in public and develop their presentation skills, so I put together an event where Les talked about his creative ideas and research for the play, and students read a selection of First World War poetry. This event took place at the end of October 2014 in a beautiful lecture theatre space in Bolton Central Library.
I had a team of four students willing to take part in the event. We used the Poetry by Heart website, and its First World War poetry time line as a source of inspiration to choose the poems we wished to present. The event was not focussed on memorisation, but did have the aim of introducing this poetry to a wide audience and building up my students’ confidence in reading. We had a very fruitful discussion about the material on the website as the students were keen to read poems by women and German writers as well as more well known work. I hosted this part of the evening and introduced each poet, again using the biographical material from the Poetry by Heart website, to help the audience understand a little of the context of the poems. My students chose work by Owen Sheers, Wilfred Owen, Rose Macaulay and Ernst Stadler.
The audience feedback was extremely positive:
“Need more like this! Students’ own work as well.”
“Informative, beautiful surroundings and a wonderful opportunity to hear a playwright explain their process for a particular production.”
“Interesting insight on World War. Beautiful playwright.”
“Well structured –varied/interesting. Student readers –good idea, it’s an experience for the reader, as much as the listener.”
We had an audience of over fifty people, including members of the general public and other students from the University of Bolton. One of my students had never stood up in front of an audience before and nearly backed out, due to nerves. She read beautifully. Another graduate student has gone on to perform at open mic events in the area and has had paid work evaluating Bolton’s first international poetry festival, ‘Live from Worktown.’
I am now planning further opportunities in the spring to build on this success and have invited Manchester based poet Shamshad Khan to present her poetry. She will host an evening for my students to read their own work in public at the Octagon Theatre. I am also using the Poetry by Heart website, (and regularly use the Poetry Archive in class) with my undergraduate students to help widen their knowledge and reading of poetry, which can only strengthen their own creative output.
Further information on Creative Writing at The University of Bolton:
Further information on NAWE:
My current poetry collection: Talking with the Dead, Cinnamon Press,
Anne grew up in the north-west of England and now lives in West Yorkshire. Her poetry has been published widely in the UK. She teaches creative writing at The University of Bolton, and is just about to take up a new position as the Deputy Director of NAWE – the National Association for Writers in Education. www.nawe.co.uk. Her poetry collection, Talking with the Dead, was published by Cinnamon Press in 2011. ‘Anne Caldwell’s poems deal passionately with grief and birth, love – and lobsters. They are intensely alive, flighty as young animals; powerful and varied as the sea.’ Alison Brackenbury. http://annecaldwell.net