On Tuesday 9 March two of our students participated in the school round of the Poetry by Heart competition. There were three school judges and the students’ parents dialled in to watch.  Sadly, only one contestant could go through although it was very close.  Abigail made it through to the next round – the regional heat. Here they recount their experiences.

Abigail (Middle 5)

Last year, I decided to take part in Poetry By Heart, as I love both poetry and performance, and I am very glad I did. It has been an enjoyable and interesting experience, and I have discovered verse that I might never have read had I not given it a go. The competition requires contestants to learn two poems, one from before 1914 and one from after 1914. After great deliberation, I chose to perform ‘A Thousand Martyrs’ by Aphra Behn and ‘Morning Song’ by Sylvia Plath, two female poets whom I thoroughly admire. I chose ‘A Thousand Martyrs’ for two reasons, firstly because I thought that the cynical, cruel perspective from which the poem is written would be fun to perform, and secondly because it was written by Aphra Behn. Behn was a playwright and poet who wrote in the 1600s, and made her living from her writing, and I was inspired by the fact that she published work in a time where it was highly unusual for a woman to do so.

The lyrical yet sparse beauty of  ‘Morning Song’, my post-1914 poem, drew me to it, and I enjoyed the challenge of telling its complicated story. In only six three-line stanzas, Plath presents the journey of a mother, from her detachment from her child and inability to see herself as a parent to the beginning of her love for the baby, in an incredibly moving way. I can only hope that I’ve done this poem justice in my performance.

Overall, it was a fantastic and rewarding experience, and I would love to do it again.

Natasha (Middle 5)

My poems were: Song from Arcadia by Philip Sidney for the pre-1914 poem, and The Arrest of Oscar Wilde at the Cadogan Hotel by John Betjeman for the post-1914 poem.

Poetry By Heart wasn’t something I had done before. I was worried I would be too busy to do it well, but in the end I was really glad I tried it! The whole experience of choosing poems gave me a chance to think deeply about my options and consider what about them drew me. The process of learning them, understanding the meaning and conveying that myself was different to anything I’ve ever done in English lessons. It was hard work but I enjoyed every moment and in the end it was definitely worth it. The performance was nothing short of exhilarating! I also really enjoyed listening to the other poems, seeing how someone else would choose to share them with others. All in all it was so much fun and I hope I can repeat the experience next year!