NaPoWriMo 2022

It’s National Poetry Writing Month. (Seems like a good excuse for a blog post!)

I was having a bad night. I thought about Plath (luckily I can conjure up some of her lines, in my head) and wrote a poem about living with Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD). PMDD is an endocrine disorder affecting about 5% of women. Read about it, here:

Here’s the Plath poem, that kickstarted my own:

Dreaming of fast cars and barbecues …

We can virtually taste summer!

And here’s a sample taste, in the form of the final 2 poems of the school year, from St Birinus School Poet Laureates, Ianto Cater (year 7) and Elliott World (year 8), who I’ve been mentoring this year.

My thanks to both of them, for their inventive and colourful work, over the last 9 months.

Please savour and share their poems. And we wish you memorable summers, in the best of ways!

Ianto Carter
Elliott World

Watch Elliott (and his dog) read his poem on YouTube.

Let’s fly!

Welcome to the last Poet Laureate poem of the school year:

‘Fly’ by Larika Jones (year 8)

DGS Poet Laureate, Larika Jones

It’s a fitting title, as time has completely flown and I sometimes wonder what the impact of our restricted living, due to the series of lockdowns here in the UK, has had on our personal perceptions of time?

Whatever the impact, I do know that THIS moment in time should be one to celebrate the writing and creativity of the Poet Laureates, both at Didcot Girls’ School and at St Birinus, who I’ve been able to mentor this year, remotely. They’ve thrived on making time and space to nurture their own writing and have finished the year with confidence, along with a bunch of essential organisational, writing and editing skills, that they didn’t have before.

As always, my aim in mentoring young writers is that they keep writing, now and into the future, and sharing that writing. We need them, more than ever!

Please read/watch/share Larika’s poem! It’s available on YouTube, now!

‘We whisper to the dawn’

It’s arrived! The brand new anthology from the talented young poets at Didcot Girls’ School is finally here…

“We go out for cold air, hoping there will be some/ we wait for the tiny tune of the ice cream van.”

From ‘Today’ by Claire Hague

This anthology brings together new poems and flash fiction, written by young writers aged 14-16 over the course of 20 weeks, in 2021. All the work came out of my weekly Zoom writing workshops with them and I’m really excited to be able to showcase these incredible young voices.

“We are all big eyes gazing at the blossoms; how they fall like snow.”

From ‘Today is a good day to be young’ by Keira Mason

Read, download and enjoy the e-book, here:

Writing/right-ing Injustice

It’s time again to share the latest poems from two of my young mentee poets: Ianto Carter (year 7) and Elliott World (year 8), who are this year’s Poet Laureates at St Birinus School.

They’ve created two impactful and uniquely different poems, for their latest commission.

When I read World’s poem in particular, I feel justifiably proud and excited, seeing poetry in action, as a tool for challenging prevalent social norms, injustices and inequalities.

Please read, share and celebrate these poets with me!

Elliott World, Poet Laureate
Ianto Carter, Poet Laureate

Watch Ianto read his poem, here.

Starting point for a poem

Our Didcot Girls’ School Poet Laureate, Larika Jones, has been writing away, behind the scenes, working on her latest poem.
Each term, I give the Poet Laureates I work with in schools, a new commission. Typically a single word, it becomes the point from which they grow a poem. I always encourage them to start with this word but to journey to somewhere else. I think some of the best poems are discovered, along the way.

Larika’s latest poem originated in the word:

and here’s her final poem – please watch her read it, here, and share – thank you!

Time is playing tricks on us

How can it possibly be almost Easter, already?

High time, then, for a quick update on my work mentoring young poets in schools…

My Didcot Girls’ Young Writers’ Group on zoom has been an absolute delight and a safe, creative haven for our talented students. Our Poet Laureates have also been going from strength to strength. I believe with assurance that these testing times have produced some of the best writing I’ve ever seen from young writers, in my four years to date, in my role as Patron of Writing.

“You can’t be brave if you’ve only had wonderful things happen to you.”

– Mary Tyler Moore

There’s so much truth in this! Adversity is hard to experience, hard to overcome, but it can build us into who we are, and, for those of us who have writing at our core, writing our way through adversity brings hope, stamina and some light. Making something beautiful out of something dire is pretty motivational!

So at this point, I’m going to demonstrate the above, by letting the young writers do the talking. Here are some brief snippets of a few of their draft poems, written over the past three months. And I think they prove my point!

Contact: new poems by the SBS Poet Laureates

‘Contact’ was the last commission given to Ianto Carter and Elliott World, this year’s Poet Laureates at St Birinus School. It feels like a relevant and timely theme to reflect on, as England continues in national lockdown. It continues to be a struggle to maintain enough contact with others. And how much social contact is ‘enough’? I think this varies enormously, from individual to individual.

Times are tough but writing is something we can hide ourselves in, play and discover in. The Poet Laureates can use these commissions to express where they are at now and how they see the future.

I think Elliott and Ianto learned a lot through this last commission. They expressed how editing has become more real to them – the concept of ‘weigh every word’ in our poems was pointedly demonstrated during one of our mentoring discussions, which went along the lines of,

“Should the ‘yet’ be cut? What happens if we lose it?”

In the end ‘yet’ became ‘so’ and the whole poem shifted on this axis!

Discussions like these are fruitful and we love them. I’m particularly thankful for Zoom technology, which means I can continue to mentor these poets in a personal way.

Here are their new poems. Please share and enjoy!

Watch Elliott read his poem here (featuring Lily Knutton):

Poets of 2021

I’d like you to meet the Saint Birinus School new Poet Laureate team: Ianto Carter and Elliott World.

They’ll be writing back to their experiences, thoughts and the world in general, over the course of this year, with me guiding and mentoring them in their writing.

I’m already excited by the way Ianto and Elliott have been working together, sharing insights and helping each other to push their writing to the max.

Here are their poems, that won them the Poet Laureate roles. Please enjoy!

Watch Ianto read his poem, here:

Watch Elliott read his poem, here:

Writing through UK lockdown: DGS Poet Laureates

It might be lockdown here in the UK, but the writing goes on, and we need it, more than ever!

I’m delighted today to share with you the new commissioned poems from our Didcot Girls’ School Poet Laureates, who have been reflecting on the theme of ‘contact.’ Writing these poems has given Myfanwy and Larika a unique opportunity to express some of the isolation and disconnect that so many young people are experiencing, around the UK, right now.

Please read these poems and pass them on!

Watch Larika Jones read her poem, here.