Urmston students engaged in a battle of memorised verse on Monday evening. Volleys of verse were countered by sibilant sideswipes and assonant assaults, as victory was achieved on four different fronts. Taking the prize for best group recitation were Freya and Yusuf, both in Year 9; best performance prize for students Year 7-9 went to Nasiha; and Year10/11 victor was Harriet Short; while nothing could separate Sixth Form rivals Tom Freeman and Emily Greaves – so pax was called and their tussle was tied.
The Poetry by Heart competition was organized by Urmston Grammar English teacher, Esther Sandys, with a mix of judges from both within and outside of the school, including a regular at this annual event, theatre director and performer – Jonathan Ainscough – and Chair of Governors – Nick Crowther.
Another guest was national Poetry by Heart co-director, Tim Shortis, who expressed great appreciation of our students’ efforts, saying that the poets whose works were performed, including former Poet Laureate Andrew Motion, would have “been thrilled” to have heard the recitations. It was the first time that group readings had been performed at Poetry by Heart and Mr. Shortis said that he was delighted with what he had heard: Wilfred Owen’s ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’, a poem he had taught and heard many times previously, was “reignited” for him by the group recitation.
Poetry may often be perceived as a preserve of the posh, but Mr. Shortis was keen to rectify this conception, asserting strongly that Poetry by Heart was not designed for a rich elite. In fact 80% of those who take part in the national competition come from state schools. Urmston Grammar students proved that, not only can they recite poems, but they also have a penchant for poetry-writing, with three students from Year 9 reading poems that they themselves had penned. The audience was delighted as Towi, Caitlin and Sonny put forth their own versified musings on what exactly makes a poem a poem…
Whilst there is no straightforward answer to that particular question, it was delivered in the best possible way: with a broad and fine rendering of numerous examples of this literary form.
The students were supported by staff, parents and friends, as well as a visit from a representative of the brand new Manchester Poetry Library, due to open later this year at Manchester Metropolitan University. All the winners will now be entered for the regional round of the competition, and – if successful – will make it to the finals to be held in London in March.