'It's hard to read it...' Will Harris
Last night we were very lucky to be able to live-stream the Roundhouse Theatre's Youth Poetry Slam into the Westonbirt Orangery - we listened, in awe and delight and sometimes with tears in our eyes, to 8 young international poets perform from memory their monologues on racism, sexism, LGBTQ issues, as well as their narratives of first love and growing up. As one of the judges Will Harris told us in a reading of his own work - quoted above and paraphrased here - it's hard to hear it sometimes, but so necessary to feel like we are being 'painted by someone other than myself'. (Antony Anxagarou)
Our mixed audience of staff and over half of sixth form each had a favourite; we were luckier still to be able to vote through the theatre's website and share, even in this small way, our own voices and beliefs - choosing the poets that we each individually adored and admired.
But I was not just in awe of the poets - I was blown away with the level of engagement, compassion and artistic delight in each of the pupils there. Many of them were telling me throughout the evening how beautiful they thought the pieces were; cheering and clapping on the poets from afar and memorising and noting down their favourite lines. It was an excellent reminder of why poetry - whether you study it or not, whether you think of yourself as bookish or not - is often the most accessible, most inspiring form of literature. I can recall, from lessons with my Year 11 class this week, the exact facial expressions of the girls when they realised that our narrator in Browning's 'My Last Duchess' was manipulating us in his potential murder confession. I can still fondly remember my Year 8 class from 2019 being horrified and moved by some of the colonisation poetry we read.
I will remember last night - the devotion of the students there; their enthusiasm; the commitment and appreciation of the attending staff (Mrs Barnes, Mrs Price, Mr Balderson and Mr Holland - thank you!) and the lyricism of the poets who tell us their truths so boldly. And for those of you who couldn't make it, or for those curious now, please see below some of my favourite lines from the evening and check out the poets on Instagram:
'We outgrew Eden.' Amani Saeed (runner up)
'We are simply passengers of fate.' SAF-SEF (runner up)
'Someone almost walked off with all of my mind.' Jay Denise (audience vote winner)
'I've got the words but they're churned' Kiran-Jay Williams (many of the girls' favourite)
I know we have many poets in this school; please know the English department are always keen to encourage this! I would love to see some of you use the lines above as inspiration - do get in touch if they do move you to create.