Christ’s Hospital’s ‘Poetry By Heart’ competition

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The first ever Christ’s Hospital ‘Poetry By Heart’ competition took place on 28 November when CH pupils felt a particular link to two of the poets – Samuel Taylor Coleridge and the Second World War poet Keith Douglas, both ‘Old Blues’ (former pupils) of the School.

This is a nationwide competition and one of CH’s pupils, Kobbi Adi, will go on to represent Sussex next year.

Inspired by the former poet laureate Andrew Motion, the Poetry By Heart initiative is designed to revive the memorising of the most beautiful writing in the language ‘in an age in which we have started outsourcing memory to computers’.

The twelve finalists – all in Years 10-13 – met in the School library to recite and perform two poems each – one written before 1914 and one written post 1914 – selected from the Poetry By Heart timeline. The CH participants felt a particular link to the list of poems as two former pupils of the School – Samuel Taylor Coleridge and the Second World War poet Keith Douglas – had poems in the list.

“Pupils selected a dazzling range of poems, ranging from works by Sir Philip Sidney and George Herbert to contemporary poems by Jacob Sam-la-Rose and Simon Armitage,” said Stephen Walsh, Head of English. “It made for a really entertaining and moving event.

“It was also a highly educational activity. The Poetry By Heart team have produced research demonstrating the unique benefits to pupils of taking part in this process. The process emphasises learning ‘by heart’, not just by rote.”

The quality of the contest was remarkable. In the junior contest for UF (Year 10) and GE (year 11) Mariam Ipese just edged out Mololuwa Olanrewaju and Annie Garner-Hutton, who recited Coleridge’s famous poem ‘Kubla Khan’. In the senior competition the oldest heads won the day with Grecians (Year 13) Leeza Awojobi and Kobbi Adi - who have organized their own ‘spoken word’ pupil events at the School in recent terms – taking the senior prizes.

Kobbi will go on to represent CH in the Sussex competition in the spring.

Visit www.poetrybyheart.org.uk

Report and picture contributed by Christ’s Hospital.