National Poetry Day

National Poetry Day, which took place last week, was celebrated by a series of assemblies given to each section of the School. Students were encouraged to think about the freedom that poetry can give to each of us in its non-restrictive form, with Mr. Phillips sharing poetry by Simon Armitage and Osip Mandelstam. 

The theme of this year’s National Poetry Day was ‘Freedom’ and many students enjoyed the opportunity to create their own individual response to this. Not only have original poems been written but both teachers and students have shared some of their favourite poems. With so many great novels being studied in English, students were also able to link their ideas about freedom to characters and events in texts such as To Kill a Mockingbird and Great Expectations, where the theme of freedom is key. Some students in Year Ten even wrote blackout poems using Dickens’ own narrative. In the Lower School, Mrs. Vincent set her students a five-step poetry challenge which included reading a poem to your pet!

On the day itself, brave and poetic pupils took part in the first RGS ‘20 Poems in 20 Minutes’ in the Library to celebrate National Poetry 

Day. The event saw students in both the Lower and Middle School reading poems of their choice of 20 lines or less. Pupils read a range of both well-known and original poems, demonstrating not only impressive, creative talent but also how enjoyable and entertaining poetry can be.

It is always excellent to see Poetry being celebrated throughout the School.  Last week it stretched outside of the English classrooms and saw lots of other departments commemorating the day in their lessons. Modern Foreign Language students in Sixth Form looked at poetry by Victor Hugo and Jules Laforge and Lower School studied L’oiseau du Colorado by Robert Desnos. In Religious Studies, Year Ten pupils looked at Holocaust Poetry by Primo Levi and Martin Niemöller, and Year Eleven Students studied a series of poems by Steve Turner entitled The God Letters. The opening line ‘Freedom is…’ prompted some thought provoking group poetry by Year Nine. The Maths Department shared poetry by Leonard Cohen and looked at a poem about the Fibonacci sequence, and in Science lessons students looked at subject specific limericks. 

It was also fantastic to see National Poetry Day being celebrated in the co-curricular life of the School. Last week, Lower School Book Club discussed what it means to be free with Mrs Houchin, provoking some very interesting acrostic poems from pupils in Year Seven. This week The Literary Society marked the occasion by hearing a lecture on Carol Ann Duffy’s poetry and in Film Club, with Mr. Morgan, pupils have been writing their own poems about freedom, as well as creating films to accompany their words. A special Rounders, Hockey and Cricket celebratory meeting saw the Headmaster share the poem ‘An Athlete’s Prayer’.

All of the brilliant, creative work that the students have generated both in English and their other lessons will be displayed in both Stephen Hall and throughout the School on special ‘birds of freedom’ so please do keep an eye out for these as you pass through. You may even think of the quotation below by Virginia Woolf as you notice how wonderfully creative and free the minds of students at RGS are in their approach to writing, sharing and enjoying poetry. 

“Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.” 
― Virginia WoolfA Room of One’s Own

Miss Laura Webb, English Department