National Poetry Day
Poetry in schools suffers from a bad reputation: often thought of as stuffy and dryly taught, it is not unusual to hear groans of dread from children and adults alike when poetry raises its head. A Punch cartoon, supposedly written by A. E. Housman, perfectly skewers the popular opinion of poetry teaching:
Two English teachers are walking in the woods in springtime. The first, on hearing birdsong, is moved to quote William Wordsworth:
Oh cuckoo, shall I call thee bird
Or but a wandering voice?
State the alternative preferred
With reasons for your choice.
This approach might feel familiar to many of us when looking back on our own school experiences. At NHP, we want to take every opportunity to inject joy, accessibility, and collaboration into poetry instead. This Thursday presented the perfect opportunity.
On National Poetry Day, we all enjoyed reading a selection of poetry together to celebrate the occasion. In English lessons at the start of term, pupils read a range of poetry and voted for their favourites. With best-loved poems decided for the Lower School (How to Turn Your Teacher Purple by James Carter), Middle School (I’d Like to be a Teabag by Peter Dixon), and Upper School (The Mrs Butler Blues by Allan Ahlberg) and a special project for Year 8 (Speech Balloon by Imtiaz Dharker), pupils set about readying themselves for performance. They worked with their English and form teachers to prepare a rousing performance. In culmination, we enjoyed two recital events: Lower School and Year 8 pupils performed to one another, and the Middle and Upper school exchanged recitals. I was so thrilled to see pupils performing with gusto, good humour, and expression. Teaching staff were cajoled into a recital, too, sharing a rendition of My Shadow by Robert Louis Stevenson. There was something magical about speaking aloud together, a feeling of unity and purpose that provided a feel-good tingle. Stuffy, it was not.
Thank you to all the teachers involved for their support, especially Miss Coffey for her coordination in the Lower School, and a huge well done to all our marvellous poetry performers. You were fantastic!