Poetry Live! event in Oxford
On Wednesday 1 March 2023, 50 Year 10 pupils had the chance to attend the ‘Poetry Live!’ conference at the Oxford New Theatre in order to reflect on, study and revise the poems that comprise part of their GCSE English Literature course. This event was filled with wise words from a number of different speakers, from current Poet Laureate Simon Armitage, to the Chief Examiner Peter Buckroyd.
Each of the speakers gave the audience an interesting vision into their own poetry and the ‘voice’ they have created within their collected work. Many of the poets that are studied for GCSE English Literature were in attendance: pupils contemplated these poems afresh and each poet answered questions about specific elements of their work and thought-processes. All of the poets – Simon Armitage, Carol Ann Duffy, Imtiaz Dharker, Daljit Nagra, Owen Sheers and John Agard – were reading from new works as well as from the poems we have studied in class, thus giving us a new appreciation for their collected works.
One key message was from Simon Armitage, that poets specifically choose where to place the words on the page – that they "decide where the language goes, and what space to put around it". He likened poetry to painting - that the structure and space used can have any number of meanings.
Pupils appreciated the chance to revise the key points of each poem and also had a chance to reflect on how poets conceive their ideas. Imtiaz Dharker helped the audience consider how we (as readers) can find poetry and language in the simplest of objects and use these to have a better understanding of the poet’s intentions.
The final part of the day was led by John Agard, who was welcomed with enthusiastic applause. He finished with a key message for everyone: “No matter what job you do in life, be it a doctor, scientist or a salesperson – you cannot escape language”. He stressed that words will always be with you and so you should “make language your friend and have fun with it” in order to progress.
Some of Year 11s shared their thoughts of the day:
“I liked that all the poets had the same message of inspiration: to be creative with language and enjoy the meaning it gives you.” Isabella
“It was interesting to hear the poet’s personal stories and what inspires their poetry.” Aaron
“I feel I have a better understanding of how poet’s want us to feel.” Jess
“John Agard was my favourite poet of the day, I feel he inspired us to be creative with language, as well as show how he has been creative with language in his poetry.” Harry
“Today was better than I expected. My favourite poets were John Agard and Simon Armitage.” Sam
Miss Flint, English Teacher