Poetry changes lives (1)

The last intense month has been filled with poets a-plenty, including discoveries of wonderful new writers but, sadly, no time to write about them. Finally, here’s the first instalment…

Poets at Work, the moving and powerful film by Leeds Young Authors about their development as young slam poets and their journey to perform at the Slam festival in Washington provided a fitting end to the year for our English student teachers. During their final subject session, our PGCE group at the University of Leicester showed just how much they had developed as writers themselves during the year. Their portfolios of polished work and drafts in progress contained many highlights: poems written on ‘ice cubes’ of acetate; poems inspired by other poets; film scripts; criminal investigations; photo-montages; wedding vows in two languages; reviews of films, plays and music; a poetree of family history. So much talent on show and so much potential to inspire young people in their own classrooms.

Just a week later, at NATE conference in Stratford-upon-Avon basking in summer sun, I had the privilege to introduce a fabulous mix of poets from Leeds Young Authors and  Louisiana State University to a new audience of English teachers. The voices of Saju Ahmed, Rheima Robinson and Ashley Whyles (from Leeds YA), Matthew ‘Cuban’ Hernandez, Anna West and Nayyir ‘Nay’ Ransome from LSU in Baton Rouge are a testament to the fact that poetry can change lives and help young people to find their voices. Many of these poets have participated in Brave New Voices International Teen Poetry Slam competitions. Ransome spoke of her discovery that she was ‘not a wrong answer but an open ended question’. On a hot and sticky afternoon in Stratford the NATE audience couldn’t hear enough of them.

If that wasn’t thrilling enough, we also got to hear Jacob Sam-La Rose for the first time that evening. He gave a controlled and vibrant performance of new works and poems from his first collection Breaking Silence (Bloodaxe). Sam-La Rose will be an ambassador for National Poetry Day in the UK later this year. Check him out.

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