Tuesday, 11 February 2014

'We're passing to you': poetry, young writers and football

Radio 3 recently ran a series in which 5 contemporary poets were invited to write personal letters to a young poet, inspired by Rilke's classic correspondence. Over the past two weeks, my laureate role has given me the opportunity to work with young writers all across Derbyshire, from Eckington to Glossop, and it's been an inspiring process: I'd be more interested to read their letters of advice to me than vice versa!

Last week I went to Chesterfield's mighty Proact stadium to run a workshop for Year 6 students from New Whittington Primary. I was encouraging them to write about their favourite things and their favourite places in Chesterfield and was humbled by their enthusiastic response. Instead of listing possessions as their favourite things, most of the pupils chose to write about friends, family, pets or treasured photographs. When they were asked to describe parts of Chesterfield that mean something to them, the poems ranged from an ode to the Crooked Spire to a homage to KFC, with everything else in between. You can read the Chesterfield Post's write up of the day here and see a video of me reading my poem 'Talk of the Town' at the Proact. Lots of the Year 6s were Spireites fans and were excited about the possibility of Chesterfield going to Wembley...

Working with students from New Whittington Primary
Then this weekend I took a drive over Winnats Pass in dazzling sunshine to run some workshops for families at New Mills and Glossop libraries, in honour of National Libraries Day. The workshops were particularly well attended by children and we spent the day writing letters (some in the form of poems) to our favourite characters from books. I learned a lot from the budding young writers at Glossop, who told me about David Walliams' brilliant books for children, including 'Gangsta Granny', which had me in stitches after only a few pages.

Later this month I'll be working in Eckington, encouraging Year 6 students to respond to local history through poetry and to enter their work for the 'Eckington Echoes' poetry competition, open to anyone who lives in Eckington. If you'd like more information about the competition, please contact Alison Betteridge.

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