Poetry By Heart Blog

National Poetry Day – with popcorn and Parliament!

18th November 2021

Today’s blog is a double feature about what Poetry By Hearters got up to National Poetry Day on 7th October 2021.

First, a talented group of Poetry By Heart 2020-2021 finalists and their teachers went off to 10 Downing Street for a special reception hosted by the then-new Secretary of State for Education, Nadhim Zahawi. After a quick trip to Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey and a rehearsal on Parliament Green, students performed their winning poems and the minister read one that is close to his heart, ‘How To Cut A Pomegranate’ by Imtiaz Dharker. We also had readings by two PBH teacher-poets, Oliver Lomax and Olga Dermott-Bond, by poet and PBH advisor and judge Daljit Nagra, and by surprise guest poet, Lemn Sissay. We ended by leading a shared reading aloud – students, teachers, parents, civil servants, the Secretary of State, the Permanent Private Secretary and the Downing Street staff – of the October calendar poem for Black History Month, Eloise Greenfield’s ‘Harriet Tubman’.

You can watch our short film of the visit below – and as you see our brilliant class of 2021 taking selfies on the steps of Number 10, think about where Poetry By Heart could take you and your students…

 

In our second feature looking back on National Poetry Day, Henna Riaz from Eastbury Community School in Essex takes us through her school’s special event filled with poems, fuelled by unbridled creativity, novelty badges and plenty of chocolate!

National Poetry Day is the annual mass celebration on the first Thursday of October that encourages all to enjoy, discover and share poetry. This year the event took place on October 7 and the theme was choice. To celebrate this event, I collaborated with the team at Poetry By Heart and challenged students at Eastbury Community School to find a poem, learn it and recite it aloud.

Students from years 7-10 eagerly accepted this challenge and hearing their recitations was an enjoyable way to celebrate National Poetry Day. It was truly an honour to host the event and celebrate their incredible recitations. We sat back and watched the recitals whilst enjoying a selection of snacks – popcorn, cakes, crisps and plenty of chocolates of course! Certificates and Poetry By Heart badges were also awarded to each competitor for their courage and creativity.

Each recital was fantastic, but the judging panel decided that the winning recital would be awarded to Emine Omer. She had constructed her own inspirational poem to recite. Emine’s recitation of her poem ‘Stereotypes’ was filled with immense passion and enthusiasm. Have a read of her poem below. Overall, it was truly a pleasure to hear amazing recitals by our students.

eastbury sch

“Amazing! I won and my performance was shared and seen by many. I am glad they heard about my feelings towards discrimination.” Emine Omer

“I recited ‘Letter to Lockdown’ and I took part in this competition to boost my confidence. I found it most enjoyable to recite the poem. For me it was fun, different and pleasantly surprising.” Trinity Lobow

Stereotypes
Just because I am a Muslim
It does not mean that I am a terrorist.
It does not mean that anyone can rip me apart

With a stereotype.
Just like everyone else
I am free as well.

No one can judge me by my identity.
No one can judge me by my freedom either.

Just because I am a Muslim

It does not mean that I am not allowed to have:

Dreams, hopes and ambitions.
I have the ability to change the world
Just like everyone else does.

Emine Omer

Share via

We will remember

4th November 2021

11th November is a week away, the day we remember all those who have died as a result of war and conflict. In this blogpost, we’ve pulled together some of the Poetry By Heart resources you might want to draw on in planning acts of remembrance in your school.

Screenshot 2021-11-04 at 10.23.38

The November calendar poem is Sarah Teasdale’s ‘There will come soft rains’, a poem that imagines a world after humankind has destroyed itself, in which the natural world goes on – beautifully – without us. It’s a poem that might resonate with students far beyond its original context, given the contemporary apocalyptic vision of climate change.

The ‘There will come soft rains’ poem page on the website includes four different student performances of the poem. Inviting students to watch these after they’ve read the poem and to consider what they would change and why is a great starting point for preparing their own performance of this poem. This Sunday’s Poem of the Week email also features this poem and includes an activity to explore its shifting mood.

More broadly, the November calendar challenge is to invite students to select a poem from the Poetry By Heart First World War Poetry Showcase to read or recite on 11th November at a school or community remembrance event. There are poems written at the time of the First World War by soldiers and women auxiliaries at the frontline; and by people enduring the war at home in many nations, with some poems originally written in languages other than English. There are poems written after the war by modern and contemporary poets, responding in different ways to its long-term effects on families and communities. There are old classroom favourites as well as ‘lost voices’. You could invite pupils to start exploring the showcase by finding a poem they like by a man, a woman, a person of colour, someone dead, someone alive, someone they’ve heard of, someone they’ve never heard of, someone who wrote in a language other than English, a nurse, a soldier, or any other categories you like.

We’ve also refreshed the Performance Gallery to showcase seven outstanding pupil performances of a variety of First World War poems. This might be helpful to inspire your pupils to perform poems themselves, but you are also entirely free to use it if you’d like to show one or more of the performance videos as part of your school remembrance event.

And finally, for a bit of remembrance language work, our friends at Oxford English Dictionary have an amazing resource about 100 words that define the First World War. If that takes your fancy, we’d love to hear how you use it.

If your students speak a poem on 11th November, whether read or memorised, they’re well on their way to a Poetry By Heart competition entry. They could learn their First World War showcase poem by heart and then go on to learn a second for the Classic competition, or they could think about how to develop their First World War poem performance for the Freestyle category.

If Poetry By Heart features in your school/college on 11th November, we’d love to hear about it. Blogposts of 300-800 words with any images you’re able to share are always welcome, and can be written by students or staff! Get in touch via info@poetrybyheart.org.uk

 

Share via