Poetry By Heart Blog

Love, actually – Valentine’s Day 2021

21st January 2021

Here and now, in January 2021, we can see the days getting longer and lighter at the same time as Covid-19 does its best to make them shorter and darker. To play out part in tipping more light into the balance, we’re thinking this week about the light of love in all its forms. What better time to say ‘I love you’ than now? And who better to help us to say it than the poets?


We’ve created a performance gallery where you can enjoy some of the fantastic recitations of love poems by former Poetry By heart contestants. Be blown away by Jordanah’s powerful performance of Paul Laurence Dunbar’s ‘Invitation to Love’, then prepare to be completely charmed by Will, Wardah, Sarah, William, Jack and Clover reciting their selection of poems.

We hope these seven performances might inspire you or your students to learn a love poem for Valentine’s Day. One of our very favourite poetry recitation teacher-stories is this. A teacher told her year 10 boys that learning a poem by heart and reciting it on Valentine’s Day was a great way to impress the objects of their affections. They were highly sceptical but intrigued. Next lesson, a lad walked into class and shrugged, “it worked Miss”. We love that story!

Below we’ve curated three little clusters of love poems from across the Poetry By Heart website for you to enjoy and explore, to share in class or it at home. We’d love to hear what you would add, subtract or substitute in the clusters – tweet, call or email us your suggestions.


Friends and Family

Raymond Antrobus, ‘Happy Birthday Moon’
Dad reads aloud. I follow his finger across the page

Valerie Bloom, ‘Granny Is’
Granny is

Berlie Doherty, If You Were A Carrot
If you were a carrot

Ted Hughes, ‘Cat’,
You need your Cat

E. Pauline Johnson, ‘Lullaby of the Iroquois’,
Little brown baby-bird, lapped in your nest

Jackie Kay, ‘Double Trouble’
We were rich and poor

Grace Nichols,‘Praise Song for my Mother’
You were


Classic love

Elizabeth Barrett Browning, ‘How Do I Love Thee/ Sonnets From The Portuguese’
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways

John Clare, ‘First Love’
I ne’er was struck before that hour

John Donne, ‘The Good Morrow’
I wonder by my troth, what thou and I

Christopher Marlowe, ‘The Passionate Shepherd To His Love’
Come live with me and be my love

Walter Raleigh, ‘The Nymph’s Reply To The Shepherd’,
If all the world and love were young

William Shakespeare, ‘Sonnet 18: Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day?’
Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?

Philip Sidney, ‘Song From Arcadia’
My true-love hath my heart and I have his


Modern love

Carol-Ann Duffy, ‘December’
The year dwindles and glows

Ian Duhig, ‘From The Irish’
According to Dinneen, a Gael unsurpassed

Paul Dunbar, ‘Invitation To Love’
Come when the nights are bright with stars

Mick Imlah, ‘Maren’
You saw so much romance in competition

Jackie Kay, ‘Dusting the Phone’
I am spending my time imagining the worst that could happen

Edwin Morgan, ‘Strawberries’
There were never strawberries

Alice Oswald, ‘Wedding’,
From time to time our love is like a sail


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Poetry Screen with the Poetry Archive

7th January 2021

Our partner, The Poetry Archive, has just launched an exciting new project to encourage young film makers and poets to make video poems, inspired by the poems on the Archive.  In this week’s blogpost, artist, Fiona Meadley, who created the project, writes to explain what it’s all about and to encourage your students to take part.

Hats off to you teachers adapting through the pandemic and finding different ways to engage your students. I hope Poetry Screen can support that by inviting pupils to have fun creating a video poem – working independently at home and developing their English, art and media skills.

We’re looking for short poetry videos inspired by the poems recorded in the Poetry Archive.  There are two options. Either, pupils can write a poem in response to any of the poems in the archive, make an audio recording of it, then edit in some visuals.  Or, they can use one of the classic recordings listed and add their own visuals.

I was really taken by Day 4 of Poetry by Heart’s advent calendar  (‘The Thorn’, Helen Dunmore).  Instead of filming a regular talking head poetry recitation, students added some simple animation and spontaneously created a video poem! Here it is…

Imagine that classic William Blake poem ‘The Tyger’ brought to life with simple stop motion animation and drawings.  Lockdown walks may yield footage to match Gerard Manley Hopkin’s ‘Pied Beauty’, or A.E. Housman’s ‘Loveliest of trees, the cherry now’, or  William Blake’s ‘London’More introspective poems like John Milton’s ‘When I consider how my time is spent’ could provide an outlet for the mood of these times

If your pupils are more likely to engage in contemporary poetry, they could try writing their own poem in response to a poem with a strong visual element.  In the Children’s Poetry Archive, Dennis Lee’s ‘Alligator Pie’ memorably mixes food and animals, guaranteed to spark off quirky rhymes!  Joseph Coelho’s ‘If All the World were Paper’ encourages pupils to have fun imagining the world made of one material.  Laura Mucha’s ‘Albatross’ deals with personal difficulties by imagining herself a bird.

All the kit needed is a mobile phone, a phone tripod and a microphone.  Editing could be on simple free software like imovie.  Collaboration is encouraged, so pupils could work with someone older – an older sibling, parent or grandparent (so long as everyone’s role is acknowledged).

The closing date is 1 June 2021, and Poetry Screen will select five submissions to showcase, paying a royalty fee of £200 each.  Full details can be found here Poetry Screen – Poetry Archive.

Given the wide age range Poetry Screen is open to (under 25s), the selectors will take account of the ages of entrants.  We’re looking to encourage young people to engage with poetry by making poetry videos – it would be great to include work by primary, secondary and post-16 pupils, as well as film school students!

Fiona Meadley, info@poetryscreen.uk

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