Young poetry lovers impress judges

YOUNG poetry lovers at RGS impressed judges with their performances in the first round of a national Poetry By Heart competition.

Five of the thirteen students who entered have won through to the regional round, with hopes for a place in the final, to be held at The Globe Theatre in London.

In first place was Henry Saunders with his mesmerising rendition of The Hag by Robert Herrick, performed to a captivated audience in the school library (pictured).

Vlad Danila was runner up with his accomplished delivery of The End by Mark Strand. Every finalist, including highly commended Trinabh Srinivasan, Neive Young and Chloe Smith, was awarded a book from the library.

Henry, from Ripon, chose to read The Hag because of its complex imagery and said reading it aloud helped him convey the meaning of the poem.

The 13-year-old, who wants to study physics and maths at university and also enjoys chess, astronomy, running and playing piano, said taking part in the competition helped enhance his public speaking skills.

RGS head of English Ollie Johnson (pictured briefing students, below) said it was brilliant to see students perform such a wide range of poems so confidently and with smiles on their faces. 

"Performing poetry, especially in the Poetry By Heart competition, is an invaluable way of improving students' appreciation of the form and I know that all of the contestants have developed both their public speaking skills and their literary awareness a great deal through this process. Good luck to them all in the next round," he said.

Founded ten years ago by then Poet Laureate Sir Andrew Motion and current co-director Dr Julie Blake, Poetry By Heart is open to all schools and colleges in England.

It invites young people to choose poems they love, learn them by heart and perform them in a school or college performance event.

Poetry By Heart continues to grow in popularity and the 2023 competition received the highest number of entries to date: 2,000 video entries of poetry performances; 90,000 young people involved and a staggering 39,000 poems learned by heart.

Dr Blake hopes for even larger numbers to take part in 2024.

She said: "Taking part in Poetry By Heart is all about developing confidence with poetry in an enjoyable, accessible and engaging way.

"We know – and teachers tell us – that participation supports reading, literacy and oracy skills, and curriculum development; that it boosts student wellbeing and confidence; that it helps with concentration.

"More than that though, as all the poets we work with agree, to have a poem in the memory, learnt by heart, is a treasure that can be drawn on throughout life."