One of the best bits of my role as Patron of Writing, is to publish new work by the young writers I have the privilege of mentoring.
Today, I get to share the latest work from talented year 11 student, Iris Rogers. This is my third year working with Iris and it’s been amazing to watch her development and to support her on her writing journey.
Frustratingly, our St Birinus School Poet Laureates didn’t get the chance to perform their poems to the school community this term, due to school closures. However, school closures definitely don’t stop us from being, from thinking and creating … and here’s the proof:
Please take a moment to stop and take in this latest commissioned poem, from SBS Upper School Poet Laureate Jake McGhee, who was writing in response to the commission theme: risk.
Please share it too! (With thanks, on behalf of Jake.)
Following on from yesterday’s post about the stunning poetry being written at Didcot Girls’ School by their two young Poet Laureates, I’m chuffed to tell you that, this school year, St Birinus School has two official poets of their own to shout about!
At the risk of sounding like a cracked record, I’m very much enjoying mentoring these two impressive poets! They constantly surprise me by the depth and maturity of their subject choices and craftsmanship. It’s a lot of fun sitting down together and talking poetics and performance!
Please take a look at their latest work, which they’ll be performing in front of packed audiences of staff and students at St Birinus School.
So today and tomorrow, I’ll be showcasing the latest work by the incredibly talented young poets, who earned the title ‘Poet Laureate’ earlier this year, in their schools.
It’s a genuine privilege to be able to work closely with these writers, as part of my role as Patron of Writing at Didcot Girls’ School and Saint Birinus School.
Starting today with DGS, here are our two young poets: Keira Mason (left, year 8) and Iris Rogers (year 11).
I meet Keira and Iris every term (six times over the course of the school year), to work with them on refining their work, to give them their new poetry commission and to coach them in rehearsing prior to their poetry performances. In between these face-to-face meetings, we keep in contact by e-mail, and I send them feedback on their early drafts, as well as hand-selected poems that I think will inspire and challenge them.
I’m delighted to share their latest pieces with you! These were written in response to the commission ‘Risk Taking’ and the young Laureates have performed these in front of year group audiences, at Didcot Girls’ School (which is another impressive achievement).
I’m now 8 hours and 180 students in to my poetry workshops at Didcot Girls’ School, with year 9. It’s been brilliant, and there’s still more to come.
There has been a vast amount of creativity, imagination and powerful writing in all the sessions. I’ve been lucky enough to work with all groups across the prior attainment spectrum. The young writers are all phenomenal.
As well as writing, we’ve had rich discussions about poetic form, where poems come from and how we might start to write them.
This blog post is a micro showcase of some of their writing. All these drafts were written playfully and experimentally, in under 15 minutes, in response to reading Mary Jean Chan’s ‘Safe Space’ sequenced poems, from her latest collection, ‘Fleche.’
With my Didcot Girls’ School Patron of Writing hat on, I had a lot of fun planning a poetry takeover for National Poetry Day. The students explored the life and words of environmental activist, Greta Thunberg, and wrote poems inspired by her, around the theme of climate change.
Please enjoy these poems, created by year 9 student, Paulina Sieczka, during the takeover session (with huge thanks to Paulina, for letting me share them!)
How do we change young people’s perceptions about poetry?
How do we remove the blocks, the clamps that weigh us down, make us so fearful of writing freely?
How can we release the incredible potential of the next generation’s creativity?
These are all issues that I seek to open, challenge and address in my poetry workshops with young people, and as Patron of Writing at Didcot Girls’ School, my workshops with year 9 (students aged 13-14) are now well underway. I’ve been thrilled with how the workshops have been so far: with the creative responses of the young writers; with the quality of what’s been produced during our 1-hour together.
This blog post is really me taking the opportunity to share some of the students’ remarkable, unique and brave writing, as well as a way of demonstrating that the above aims are completely achievable in creative writing workshops.
I’ve entitled the workshops ‘Safe Spaces,’ a title borrowed from Mary Jean Chan’s shining new collection, Fleche (pub by Faber, 2019). In the workshops, we read and digest Chan’s 3 poems in the sequence, using them as a springboard to launch our own recreation of ‘Safe Spaces’. We discuss, question and experiment with form (two of Chan’s poems in the sequence are prose poems), utilising line, the senses, voice and imagery.
Here is a small sample of some of the powerful, original and expressive work created, in under half an hour, by some of the Didcot Girls’ writers:
The range of responses to the prompts is stunning. The drafts are very free but strong, capturing diverse worlds, emotions and voices. My instruction to ‘write in a box,’ wall-to-wall, without paying any thought to line break, frees up language, images and emotions, rather than shutting them down. The writing time is delivered in three stages, the writing box expanding with each burst of writing, until, on the third stage, we widen up the width of the page and try to fill it with long figurative, free lines, expressions of our own ‘safe spaces’ with white space in-between, to let the images breathe.
Here are a couple of their striking responses:
The student feedback from the sessions so far has been illuminating. It also affirms the value of poets delivering workshops in schools. Here’s how some of the writers chose to complete the phrase: ‘The session has changed how I feel about –
“how to generate ideas for poems”
“Expressing my emotions”
“My safe spaces”
“Poetry, because I felt free but also contained”
“How powerful poetry is”
“What poetry can be”
“poetry and its adventures”
“poetry because it can be about anything”
I’ll give the last word, to them:
“I always thought poetry was quite simply boring,
however, I really enjoyed this workshop and learned about different poetic
forms and language”
“I feel a lot more passionate about generally writing the poetry”
“I would like to do more poetry workshops in English lessons”
…and I’m delighted to be working with the amazing students at SBS this year!
My first task is to seek out the very first two student Poet Laureates for the school, who I’ll be mentoring on their journeys, as they develop their skill and craft as poets, over the course of the school year.
Could you be Poet Laureate? If you think this great opportunity should be yours, then take a look at the info above, get writing and send me your Freedom inspired poem by October 11th please…
And a huge welcome back to the incredible students at Didcot Girls’ School!
I genuinely can’t wait to work with you over the coming year.
The unique role of Lower School Poet Laureate is now up for grabs, so get writing and send me those poems by Friday 27th September please!