I can hardly believe that after Easter, I’ll be starting my final term as Writer in Residence at St Gregory’s Catholic College, Bath. The time has whizzed by. This term, as well as reading and writing poetry, students have written crime fiction, particularly looking at very short stories (flash fiction). We received the good news that six students were successful in Live Canon’s Children’s Poetry Competition and will see their work performed on stage at the prizegiving ceremony, as well as published in the prizewinners’ anthology. Here’s a picture of me with two of the winning poets:
We’ve been thinking about poems about place, as this is the theme for the Betjeman Poetry Prize which I’m hoping that Year 7 and 8 students will enter. I found Kate Clanchy’s Top Tips for Young Poets full of good ideas for poems.
I also took in these terrific anthologies containing the poems of recent winners of the Foyle Young Poets of the Year competition. Students found plenty of poems in here for inspiration.
Sometimes, I started sessions by asking students to pick up a pamphlet or book from a pile on the table, to find a poem they liked and to share that with the group, trying to say why they chose it. Teacher and poet Ben Bransfield gave me the idea to do this and it’s a brilliant way of giving students autonomy in their reading, as well as introducing them to a lot of different poems in a short space of time. In all of my sessions, I always make sure that students read and talk about poetry (or short fiction or scripts) as well as write it.
Another poem I’ve shared a lot this term and a poem that students of different ages have responded well to is Incident by Natasha Trethewey. It’s a great introduction to the pantoum form, although so subtle that students don’t always realise that lines are repeated. We always read the poem several times and then, gradually, students worked out what was happening and found their own way of talking about the ‘incident’ in question. The power and impact of this poem lies in its quiet language and non-hectoring tone. It provoked intelligent, informed and compassionate discussions among the young people I read the poem with, and was a way into writing about historical incidents and injustices.
Finally, returning to poems about place, although I haven’t shared these with students yet, these three poems by Jean Atkin at And Other Poems are wonderful examples which I will be taking to school after the Easter break.