About Poetry By Heart

A welcome from Andrew Motion, Co-founder


Ever since I first started reading poetry in earnest, more than forty years ago, I’ve always thought its meaning has as much to do with sound as it does to do with sense. Poetry, crucially, is an acoustic form. It’s emotional noise. That is why it’s often able to move us before we completely understand it. Its sounds allow us to receive it in our hearts, as well as in our heads. It was for these reasons, among others, that Richard Carrington and I launched the Poetry Archive ten years ago, and also why I established Poetry by Heart with Julie Blake.

Poetry By Heart allows us to appreciate and enjoy this in the most fundamental way – by encouraging young people to learn poems and recite them aloud. In eight years, it has grown from strength to strength: since 2013 thousands of pupils have had some experience of this kind of poetry learning and sharing. This is both serious and fun: an excitement and a dare. It offers young people new ways of finding pleasure and confidence in poetry. It is about understanding and remembering the deep recurring truths about our experience as humans, in terms that are especially beautiful and resonant.

Most of us have some recollection of being made to learn things when we were young ourselves, and most of us can remember bits or all of those poems in our older age. This tells us several things, I think. It tells us how important it is to learn good stuff, so that our heads are full of nourishing words. It tells us this good stuff changes its meanings in very interesting ways as the years pass and the words stay in our memories. It tells us that despite or because of the effort involved in learning by heart, we as humans have a primitive appetite for it. It makes us feel good. It makes us find ourselves.

Andrew Motion

Poet, former Poet Laureate

Co-founder of Poetry By Heart