Poetry By Heart Blog

Poetry Book Society

27th September 2017

‘The Poetry Book Society is a great place for discovery… I wish my school library had offered me such poets‘ – Gillian Clarke, GCSE Syllabus Poet and Former National Poet of Wales

PBS membership allows both students and teachers alike an ongoing dialogue with the best of contemporary poetry via the PBS quarterly recommendations. We have followed PBS for many years and regularly invite poets via their recommendations into our school for readings and workshops. They find these inspiring: simultaneously broadening and deepening.’ – Peter Carpenter, Tonbridge School

To celebrate National Poetry Day, the Poetry Book Society is offering 10% discount on school memberships. The Poetry Book Society was founded in 1953 by T S Eliot to ‘propagate the art of poetry’ and we have been supplying schools with the best new poetry books ever since!

Poetry Book Society education memberships are the ideal way to stock your secondary school or sixth-form library with the latest poetry releases and accompanying teaching resources. Every quarter our expert selectors choose the best new poetry book, the PBS Choice, and four Recommendation books, including syllabus highlights such as Simon Armitage and Sinéad Morrissey.

Each book is delivered straight to your school, hot off the press, with expert teaching tips and posters to help you prepare the perfect poetry lesson. Members also receive a copy of the PBS Bulletin magazine, a treasure trove of sneak-preview poems and exclusive interviews with major international poets. What better way to inspire your students with a love of poetry on National Poetry Day and beyond?

Why not have a browse through our complete Bulletin archive from 2008 to 2016 to see the full range of recent PBS Selections and rich archive material? Vahni Capildeo’s 2016 piece on Measures of Expatriation about belonging and migration in Spring 2016 is particularly enlightening and Ocean Vuong’s piece on Night Sky With Exit Wounds which claims that ‘writing is a bridge between two people, a bridge made of language.’

You can also have a look at our Poetry Book Society poetry on film archive or our Youtube channel, featuring major poets such as Daljit Nagra and Sarah Howe for further inspiration.

We offer two tiers of Poetry Book Society membership for schools and libraries:

Education Membership includes 4 books and 4 Bulletin magazines a year. Each quarter, you receive the PBS Choice book, Bulletin, teaching tips and posters for only £52.20 a year (RRP £58).

Hyperlink: https://www.poetrybooks.co.uk/products/education-membership?utm_source=Blog&utm_medium=Blog&utm_campaign=PoetryByHeartBlog

Charter Education Membership includes 20 books and 4 magazines a year. Each quarter, you receive the PBS Choice book, FOUR Recommendation books, Bulletin, teaching tips and posters for only £162 a year (RRP £180)

Hyperlink: https://www.poetrybooks.co.uk/products/charter-membership?utm_source=Blog&utm_medium=Blog&utm_campaign=PoetryByHeartBlog

Simply follow the links above to your chosen membership type at Poetry Book Society and enter the code POETRYBYHEART the checkout to claim your discount before the 31st October. We’ll also include a welcome pack containing the latest Choice, Bulletin, teaching resources and a canvas bag.

Follow the Poetry Book Society on twitter, facebook, Instagram and Youtube for daily poetry inspiration.

Share via


8th June 2017

Indigo Douglas aged 17 from Christ’s Hospital School in Horsham is the new Poetry By Heart champion for 2017.

Congratulations to Indigo Douglas, Poetry By Heart Champion 2017, British Library, London. Photo credit: Sam Strickland - samstrickland.com

Reciting two poems in front of a highly appreciative, spell bound audience at the British Library in London, Indigo triumphed at the end of a search for a champion that began four months ago with hundreds of students taking part in school competitions up and down the country.

In presenting her with a specially designed trophy the Chair of the judging panel Jean Sprackland praised not only Indigo’s superb recitations but the performances of all 41 county finalists who gathered at the British Library conference centre.

Indigo who is studying the International Baccalaureate at Christ’s Hospital School said, ‘I’m so surprised and exhilarated to have won this fantastic competition. It’s been an unforgettable weekend and the support all the students have given each other has been wonderful.’

Indigo who became the Sussex champion in March also won her regional final before competing with eight other finalists on Sunday afternoon. Indigo recited, ‘An Epistle to Miss Blount’ by Alexander Pope and ‘Your Attention Please’ by Peter Porter.

Second place was awarded to Beth Molyneux from Urmston Grammar School, the Manchester champion and third place went to Isabella Redmayne from the King Edward VIth School who is the Northumberland champion.

Participants recited in front of a distinguished panel of judges from the world of poetry including Jean Sprackland, Daljit Nagra, Patience Agbabi, Glyn Maxwell, Tim Dee and Cambridge academic David Whitley. The poet Jacob Sam-La Rose hosted the event throughout the weekend. On Saturday evening after a splendid winners’ dinner at The Friends House near the British Library the poets read for the students and their teachers in a remarkable event that saw each poet take to the stage for five minutes.

“Poetry Please” from BBC Radio 4 recorded the finals weekend for a special “Poetry Please” episode to be broadcast on Sunday May 14th.

Congratulations to all of our finalists participating in the Poetry By Heart Championships 2017, British Library, London. Photo credit: Sam Strickland - samstrickland.com

Previous Poetry By Heart national champions and finalists returned to help with the smooth running of the weekend in a testament to the lasting power of participation in the competition.

Before the national final the audience enjoyed contributions from three special guests. Louisa Tait from Seaford College in West Sussex, the winner of the new Shakespeare sonnet competition for adults, recited sonnet 57 and Eléonore Fontaine the winner of Poetry By Heart France from the Institut Notre Dame also recited. Finally the actor Freddie Fox talked about the importance of learning poetry by heart in his life and recited Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116.

At the end of a highly successful event Co-founder and Director of Poetry By Heart, Julie Blake said:

‘Five years ago, poetry recitation in schools was commonly seen as a nostalgic practice harking back to the nineteenth century, although some teachers and many poets always knew differently. Following the fifth Poetry By Heart competition and finals weekend it is back, with all the new life, vigour and creativity that young people from every county and major city in England are bringing to it. Poetry By Heart is now established in the school calendar with over a thousand secondary schools signed up to take part. Every year, young people from all school types and all social backgrounds are choosing poems that speak to them and taking them into their hearts. Poetry By Heart sets them on a journey for a lifelong enjoyment of poetry, read, shared and spoken aloud. Time will tell how this will shape our collective cultural life’.

2017 saw the introduction of a new Shakespeare Sonnet competition allowing any pupil in a school to record a recitation of one of Shakespeare’s 154 sonnets.  Sam Mount from Springwood High School, Kings Lynn emerged as the national champion for the sonnet competition and he will be invited to recite at the Poetry By Heart 2018 national finals. Springwood High School was enjoying a double success after the weekend as the school also provided Poetry By Heart with its 2017 Norfolk winner and national finalist Abigail Peters. The Directors of Poetry By Heart will be visiting Springwood High School next week to present Sam with prizes and the school Library with a magnificent facsimile Shakespeare folio.


Poetry By Heart – the search for our 2018 champion will be announced in June at NATE Conference in Nottingham 23rd-24th June 2017. Follow us on Twitter or email info@poetrybyheart.org.uk


Share via

On It Like A Sonnet – Well Done!

21st April 2017

You may well have heard the great news that we’ve announced our finalists for the Poetry By Heart 2017 national competition – see here for full details – but this year that’s not the only exciting competition we’ve held!

The Shakespeare Sonnet competition (aka ‘On It Like A Sonnet’) – videos were uploaded by 31st March 2017, and our judges have been going through those and picking the best recitations.

It’s the first time we’ve been able to welcome students from Year’s 7, 8 and 9, as well as all school/college staff.

Lots of people used this as a way to ‘dip their toe’ in the poetry recitation competition and we’ve been really enjoying the results!

So, without further ado, here are the results!

2017 Shakespeare Sonnets Competition Winners

  1. Sam Mount – Springwood High School
  2. Sharika Munshi – Eastbury Comprehensive
  3. Ishmael Levy – Merchant Taylors
  4. Annabel Kirk – King’s School
  5. Katie Harvey – St Swithun’s
  6. Kathryn Gornall – Christleton High School
  7. Mariam Mighdiseli – James Allens Girls School
  8. Anna Probert – Loreto Grammar School
  9. Freya Morgan – The Woodroffe School
  10. Barnaby Johns – QEH Bristol

With Special Commendation to Teacher Submissions:

We had many wonderful recitations submitted by teachers – and the winners in order of merit are:

  1. Louisa Tait – Seaford College
  2. Kate Shockley – Merchant Taylors
  3. Mr McGinty – Dartford Grammar School

Well done!


Share via

Where the magic happens.

12th April 2017

Alison Powell talks to actor, director and magician, Peter Clifford, about Shakespeare, magic and memory

Peter Clifford

‘You like stuff to do with Shakespeare and memory,’ a friend of mine said, recently. ‘You should see this magician, Peter Clifford. He’s memorized the entire works of Shakespeare.’

‘The entire works?’


‘37 plays? 154 sonnets? 5 long narrative poems? Word for word?’

‘Yes, seriously. He gets audience members to pick random pages from The Complete Works and he can recite lines from any of them. He’s amazing.’

We all know that a magician never reveals his secrets, but as Poetry By Heart launched its special Shakespeare Sonnet Competition this year, inviting students and staff to memorise individual sonnets, it seemed only right to ask advice from a man who appears to have memorized them all. So in the interests of research, I went along to one of Peter Clifford’s magic shows.

Early in the evening, Peter performed a memory feat in which he listed the titles of Shakespeare’s plays and narrative poems in chronological order, starting with Henry VI (Parts 2, 3 and 1) and ending with Two Noble Kinsmen. Impressive, I thought, but not quite The Complete Works. Using the method of loci (a memory strategy devised in Ancient Greece where images are mentally stored in an imagined building – see the NAWE article ‘The Old Man in the Attic’), plus a bit of focus and practise, I reckoned I could manage that myself.

But then things got a little more complicated. Peter invited an audience member to the stage and handed her a battered copy of Shakespeare’s Complete Works.

‘Pick a page between 15 and 700,’ he said, explaining that this eliminated the introductory notes and index pages. ‘Tell me the page number and I’ll tell you the first word on that page.’

This was the spectacle my friend had raved about. Page numbers were turned to at random. Without fail, Peter recalled the first word on each and every one. Now this was impressive. And definitely not something I was about to try at home.

Then he took things even further. Peter asked the page-picker to choose the first or second column on any given page and decide if they wanted the first or last word.

‘Page 240, first column, first word.’


‘Page 471, second column, last word.’


‘Page 654, first column, last word.’


After several increasingly rapid-fire demonstrations of this memory stunt, the entire audience was at the jaw-dropped-open-in-amazement point.

But still, there was more.

It turned out that, not only could Peter recall individual words from any page and column, but, as he went on to demonstrate in a final flourish of memorizing brilliance, he could also recite complete lines from every page. It appeared that my friend was right. Here was a man who had actually memorized The Complete Works of Shakespeare.

Later I met Peter at a café and was immediately struck by his genuine enthusiasm and passion for all things connected with memory, performance and, in particular, Shakespeare. As well as being a magician, he is also a highly respected actor, director and writer, and has performed in numerous productions with the BBC, the Sheffield Crucible Theatre and the Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory Company, amongst others.

When I asked whether he had in fact memorized The Complete Works of Shakespeare he smiled and explained that ‘this effect involves five different memory systems’, including a pegging system – using numbers to mentally hook images; a linking system – making connections between a series of images; and the method of loci, or memory palace. He also uses a mnemonic system in which he changes numbers into images and links these to things he wants to remember. ‘This is a very old system for memorizing that has been used in different ways. We are visual creatures. We remember images better than words.’

So the answer is, yes and no.

But, interestingly, these mnemonic tools that Peter has so thoroughly mastered are not strategies he uses when actually performing Shakespeare.

‘When I learn pieces as an actor, and poems in fact, I’ll always go for what’s beneath the words. What are the images? What are the emotions? What am I trying to communicate? If you can work that out, that gives you a core feeling and you’re much more likely to remember that than just random shapes – words. Don’t try to remember just the words.’

He says that when it comes to learning a poem by heart, understanding the meaning of the work is vital. ‘It’s an intellectual process of spending time with the poem and understanding it. I’ll look at the verse structure, the rhythm, assonance, alliteration – all those things that the poet will have used.’ He also says it’s important to ‘discover what your own personal, individual emotional connection to the poem is. That’s the story you tell.’

Almost simultaneous to this understanding comes a process of making a physical connection with the words. He suggests whispering the lines ’so you get the sounds of the consonants. Then take the vowels out for a while.’ Next he might ‘take the consonants out and just speak the vowels, to get the emotional sound – the emotion seems to come through the vowels more than the consonants.’

The way to learn a poem by heart Peter suggests, is not through memory palaces or any of the strategies that he might use in his magic shows, but through ‘practice, practice, practice. Do it over and over again. Once you know what you’re trying to communicate, the words will be there and you won’t have to think about them.’

He argues that the memorizing process happens naturally when you spend focused time with a poem. ‘If you put in the time to work on the poem first, to find out what’s happening, then you find that you’re already learning it.’ He reaches a moment ‘when you’re not thinking about the words on the page. You’re embodying the words as though you’re talking to someone. You have this emotion you want to share and you use the poem to communicate that.’

Ultimately, though, he says there is no short cut to learning a poem by heart. ‘The real key is ‘workman-like graft! Learn your lines, learn your lines, learn your lines.’

It seems the real trick to poetry and recitation is less to do with mnemonics and more to do with getting to know the words intimately, discovering the emotional truth beneath the lines and finding a way to deliver them that is truly your own.

And, as we know from the best Poetry By Heart performances, that’s where the real magic happens.


Share via

You’re Going To Our Finals!

5th April 2017

Winners of the County Competitions, Poetry By Heart 2017:

We’re going to contact you on THURSDAY 6th APRIL 2017 

We will email your school’s main contact all the information and the forms you need to fill in and sign to attend the Finals Weekend. It is imperative that you respond as quickly as possible.


We can’t wait to meet you at the prestigious British Library in London on 22nd and 23rd April 2017!

North East:

  1. Kathryn Jackson – Wyke Sixth Form College – East Riding of Yorkshire
  2. Grace Emily Eyles – Ripon Grammar School – North Yorkshire
  3. Isabella Redmayne – King Edward VI School – Northumberland
  4. Frankie Docker – Sheffield High School – South Yorkshire
  5. Georgia Marker – Woodhouse Grove School – West Yorkshire
  6. Jake Knight – Teesdale School – County Durham
  7. Jamie Stradling – Whitley Bay High School – Tyne & Wear

North West:

  1. Anna Smyllie – Queen Elizabeth Grammar School – Cumbria
  2. Ciara Allen – The King’s School in Macclesfield – Cheshire
  3. Hannah McCoy – King George V College – Merseyside
  4. Anne Probert – Loreto Grammar School – Greater Manchester
  5. Beth Molyneux – Urmston Grammar School – Manchester
  6. Martha Barrett – Cardinal Newman College – Lancashire

Central East:

  1. Sam Roy – Carre’s Grammar School – Lincolnshire
  2. Koshesai Fundira – Trinity School – Berkshire
  3. Gwennan Williams – Beaconsfield High School – Buckinghamshire
  4. Luke Gyesi-Appiah – Ratcliffe College – Leicestershire
  5. Jack Verschoyle – Saint Edward’s School – Oxfordshire

Central West:

  1. Emily Coleman – Bishop Vesey’s Grammar School – West Midlands
  2. Charley Dallow – Hereford Cathedral School – Herefordshire
  3. Daisy Cooper – Thomas Telford School – Shropshire
  4. Heidi Januszewski – Denstone College – Staffordshire
  5. Lydia Reed – Rugby High School – Warwickshire


  1. Victoria Dunbobbin – Southend High School for Girls – Essex
  2. Tamsin Dobb – Melbourn Village College – Hertfordshire
  3. Lucy Peake – Northgate High School – Suffolk
  4. Ioana Diac – Kimbolton School – Cambridgeshire
  5. Abigail Peters – Springwood High School – Norfolk


  1. Khadija Choudury – Northumberland Park Community School – North London
  2. Rufiat Awolope – Graveney School – Central London
  3. Diya Hoque – William Perkin C of E High School – West London
  4. Wardah Thanvi – Bancroft’s School – East London
  5. Louis Preston – Farringtons School – South London


  1. Jacob Hulland – Shaftesbury School – Dorset
  2. Cordelia Sigurdsson – Simon Langton Girls Grammar – Kent
  3. Jasmine Helm-Stovell – Rosebery School – Surrey
  4. Indigo Douglas – Christs Hospital – Sussex
  5. Isabella Monkcom – St Swithuns School – Hampshire

South West:

  1. Rebecca Warner – Hardenhuish School – Wiltshire
  2. Issy Paul – Launceston College – Cornwall
  3. Tom Pymer – Monkton Senior School – Somerset
  4. Thomas Hill – Ivybridge Community College – Devon
  5. Corrine Bowen – Chew Valley School – Avon

Dividing Line

Wow! What an unforgettable 3 of days non-stop video judging!

Submissions poured in from all corners of the county; our judges had the absolute joy of watching and judging your videos over an intensive 3 day period.

The Poetry By Heart judging panel gathered at Homerton College, Cambridge to watch, listen and experience your wonderful, passionate, raw and authentic performances. We were absolutely floored by how emotionally engaging your performances were, in school uniforms, on stages, in libraries – that personal touch in all of your videos has really impressed us, and we’re so glad to see some schools entering for the first time, bolstered by the online-submission system. Woohoo!

We were particularly impressed with the range of poems selected this year too! Poems from our anthology popped up for the first time with fresh, passionate interpretations to bring them to life.

We laughed, we cried, we hung on to every last word. We deliberated over your brilliantly nuanced recitations. We’re absolutely delighted to announce the finalists! A hearty WELL DONE to you ALL – whether you’ve made it or not, we loved each and every one of your videos.

A great big thank you to everyone who participated this year – you are the reason Poetry By Heart is so absolutely fantastic!

Share via

Register Early For Poetry By Heart 2018

15th March 2017

Video Uploads – Instructions Now Available.

UPDATE: The video upload instructions are now available to download here!

Once you’ve help your competition and selected your winner, film your winner’s recitations and submit your video.

Submissions close at midnight on 31st March 2017, when the PBH judging panel start their deliberations. Watch this space for our announcements!

Our step by step instructions will guide you through the process. Any questions email us via info@poetrybyheart.org.uk



Early Bird Registrations for 2018

We’ve been delighted to see lots of schools registering for this year’s Poetry By Heart competition. It’s been a healthy mix of returning schools and colleges, with new establishments giving the competition a go in the light of this year’s closed-book GCSE exams coming into effect.

Our downloadable handbook for the Poetry By Heart main competition is available to all interested – if you haven’t registered yet, please do so here.

Plus, with the introduction of our Shakespeare Sonnet competition (On It Like A Sonnet!), we’ve had some great feedback from a broad range of participants who have shared their experiences of exploring our showcase and memorising the sonnets.

Having said that, if you haven’t already given the Poetry By Heart 2017 competition or our Shakespeare Sonnet competition a go, why not register today and start preparing for 2018?


Explore The Learning Zone

Our new Learning Zone is brimming with materials for organisers and participants to explore and make use of, and of course if you’d like a much more one-to-one approach to your questions, you can get in touch with our office any time.


Winner’s Weekend – British Library Update

library-freddie-judgesThe Poetry By Heart team recently went to the British Library to meet up and explore the set-up for the weekend. We’re pleased to report the location is spectacular and we really think all those who attend will have a wonderful time.

We’re in the process of finalising the programmes and setting up invitations, and it will be important for all those who are invited to be swift in responding to ensure they have a place at the event.

Since confirming our venue, this year’s Poetry By Heart judges had previously confirmed: Daljit Nagra, Patience Agbabi, Tim Dee, Glyn Maxwell, Jean Sprackland will be judging the performances.

But this just in: Jacob Sam-La Rose has also confirmed he will be attending the Winner’s Weekend this year! And thrilled to announce a surprise confirmation from the lovely Freddie Fox – recently featured in Poetry Hour – will also be attending the Winner’s Weekend!

Read Comments from More Participants In 2017

Screen Shot 2017-03-10 at 13.49.41

Previous PBH finalists Grace and Caelan got together to perform a fab piece of poetry by way of our interval entertainment!

Our competitors did themselves proud and the judges had an incredibly hard job of choosing the winner and the running up

Whitley Bay High School, Tyne & Wear

Here at UVHS we have completed our Poetry By Heart competition and have now video recorded our entrants performing their chosen poems. The competition was stiff but Laura  (who came second at the Cumbria county final last year) came out on top, and our runner up was Leah (and who was feeling ill on the day, but rallied to perform!)

Ulverston Victoria High School, Cumbria

We had a wonderful competition – they were all winners really!

Concord College, Shropshire

Don’t forget to email us your competition date and winner’s name!


A Free Book Each Friday!

Have you been following us on Twitter? Each Friday we’re asking people to tell us why they love to recite poetry for a chance to win a free copy of a book that we think you’d love! We’ve announced winners on Mondays – why not have a go this week? :)

Screen Shot 2017-03-10 at 13.50.44


Share via

Learning a sonnet? It’s (like) a piece of cake

7th March 2017

Alison Powell explains the similarities between cake eating and sonnet memorization to students.

You’ve probably heard your teachers going on about how wonderful the bard is. ‘William Shakespeare was a genius,’ they might say. ‘Look. He wrote 37 plays and 154 sonnets. Isn’t he amazing?’

And you might be thinking, ‘Big deal. Ed Sheeran has written at least 38 songs we know about, plus a heap he’s written for other people and he probably has a few more up his sleeve. What’s all the fuss?’

The trouble with this type of thinking is that it assumes a deep knowledge of something without proper experience of it. It’s a bit like saying you know what this cake tastes like, just by looking at the picture:


Cake: Looks chocolate-y and good, but you can’t know how delicious it really is without taking a bite.

Perhaps you’re now thinking, ‘Yes, but I have read Shakespeare, actually. We did Romeo and Juliet/Macbeth/Othello in school last term.’

That’s great. But although reading a play in the classroom does give you a bit more of a flavour, it can be more like looking at a recipe and saying you’ve eaten the cake.

Amazing Chocolate Cake

  • 4 eggs
  • 175g self raising flour
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 175 g butter …

Again, you’re getting an idea of the cake, but you’re not getting the full experience of tasting it. You can think of a play as a recipe for actors. Until it’s brought to life on stage, it’s a bit flavourless and two-dimensional. You’ve come closer to understanding Shakespeare, but still haven’t had a proper bite.

There is, of course, only way to truly know how lovely the cake actually is. I can talk to you about it for hours. I can describe the fluffy light sponge that melts on your tongue and the gorgeously not-too-sweet cream that oozes from its centre. Until you’ve had a proper mouthful of it, though, you’re never going to appreciate the full-taste experience.

So how do you eat the works of Shakespeare?

The most effective way, I’d argue, is to perform a play or a poem by learning the words by heart. Shakespeare’s sonnets are just fourteen lines in length, so they’re a great place to start.

To learn a sonnet, you’ll have to spend some time with it, pinning it up on the walls of your interior world so that when you speak it aloud you have the chance to taste the words without looking at them on paper.

In the process of memorizing the lines you’ll come to understand how they roll together, to know the rhythm and the underlying metre. You’ll get to know the words and start to notice their layers of meaning. You’ll begin to feel the way the poem turns around line eight and appreciate the satisfaction of the final rhyming couplet.

The words might even start to feel like they’re your own.

This is a totally different experience to reading the words on the page. And, like eating cake, it’s not something anyone else can do for you. You have to try it yourself.


Why is it worth it?

Without having a good mouthful of the actual cake, you’ll never know about the secret ingredients the chef has added to surprise you. Without learning a sonnet by heart and speaking it aloud, you’ll never get to know its truth.

So come and find out what the fuss is all about. Take a big bite of Shakespeare.

Share via

The NEW Learning Zone is Live!

2nd March 2017

20170302_Blog_learning-zoneWe are so excited to tell you all about our brand new Learning Zone, designed for teachers, students and curious visitors alike.

Each section of the Learning Zone is packed with useful materials – ranging from video performances to helpful guides on how to memorise a poem, and sign posting to blog posts that might be of interest and more.

We’ll be adding more materials to it over time, so check in regularly to see what’s new, plus we’re always looking for feedback on what you think about the Learning Zone and what you’d like to see in there. So feel free to drop us a line via info@poetrybyheart.org.uk – we’d love to hear what you think!

Visit The Learning Zone

Dividing Line

Tell Us Your Competition Date and Download Julie Blake’s Reflections on Memorising and Reciting Poetry!

20170302_Blog_icon-calendarWhile we were putting together our Learning Zone, we came across some GREAT materials that we thought teachers would LOVE to get their hands on.

In return for your competition date, we’re giving away this Julie Blake articl, which reflects on how memorising and reciting poems can transform the way we engage with, feel about, and understand poetry.

All you have to do is enter in the date of your Poetry By Heart competition, or your easy-peasy Shakespeare Sonnets competition, and you can download the link straight after!


Dividing Line

20170302_Blog_icon-giftYour Pack Is On Its Way!

If you’re a registered school waiting for your poster pack, you’ll be pleased to know it’s on its way on their way! The packs include gorgeous posters about the competition for you to put up and a free copy of Forward Arts 100 Prized Poems, and more!

If you’d like a pack to help promote your Poetry By Heart competition, be sure you’re registered first or drop us an email via info@poetrybyheart.org.uk

Dividing LineThere’s Still Time To Hold A Competition – Why Not Have a Go?

20170302_Blog_icon-stage-micYou still have until the 31st of March to hold your very own Poetry By Heart competition with just three students, reciting two poems each. In just one lunch time, you could hold your competition and pick a winner.

Or why not try the Shakespeare Sonnet competition with just one student or member of staff by memorising and reciting a sonnet from our Shakespeare Sonnets showcase? You can download a cheatsheet by filling in this form.

With the return of closed-book questions returning to GCSE exams this year, poetry recitation is a valuable skill and the Shakespeare Sonnets competition, as well as our annual Poetry By Heart competition, are great opportunities for students to focus on practising their memory and recitation skills.


Dividing LineHeld Your Competition? Video Your Winner(s)

20170302_Blog_icon-video-screenIf you’ve already held your competition over a lunch time, lesson or assembly, then be sure to let us know who the winner is, plus, now is a good time to refer to Step 10 of the handbook for guidelines for videoing your winners’.

All registered schools have the competition handbook to refer to, but if you have misplaced yours simply drop us an email via info@poetrybyheart.org.uk

Uploader Coming Soon

We’re doing final tests on the video upload tool and the instructions for it. We will be ready for you to start uploading your videos soon – watch this space for more updates!

In the meantime, why not check out our NEW Performance Gallery, featuring performances from previous years’ contestants?


Dividing LineTell Us Your Poetry By Heart Stories!

20170302_Blog_icon-storiesWhy not ask your competition winner(s) or any of the students who took part in Poetry By Heart to write to us telling us about competing in Poetry By Heart or about the experience of choosing, learning and reciting a poem.

Every year we are absolutely blown away by the stories teachers and students alike tell us about their experiences with Poetry By Heart. Why not get your students to share theirs?

We’ve a pile of special poetry prizes for the best stories – so we look forward to reading your story soon!


Dividing Line

20170302_Blog_icon-supportNeed Support?

Our team of competition advisors are here to help – simply drop us an email via info@poetrybyheart.org.uk and we will give you a call whenever is best for you to take you through your questions and also help you set up your competition!


Share via

The Ear Is The Best Reader

24th February 2017

As Robert Frost once said, ‘the ear is the best reader’ and it is on this philosophy that The Poetry Archive was founded.

After meeting in a recording studio, Sir Andrew Motion (UK Poet Laureate 1999 – 2009) and the recording producer Richard Carrington, agreed how enjoyable and illuminating it is to hear poets reading their work and how regrettable it was that in the twentieth century many important poets had not been properly recorded. Major poets such as Hardy, Housman, Lawrence had never been recorded at all, and now that opportunity was lost forever.

Launched in 2005, the Poetry Archive now offers a free resource of national and international significance which has at its heart a belief in the profound insights that come from hearing poets’ own readings of their work.

From www.poetryarchive.org you can access and listen to the world’s premier online collection of recordings of poets reading their own work. The Archive exists to make poetry accessible, relevant and enjoyable to as wide audience as possible so alongside freely accessible recordings and a wealth of background information and materials, the Poetry Archive continues to develop new ways to provide teachers with the support they need. We have a range of exciting plans in the pipeline for 2017 and if you would like to get involved, or benefit from special offers and priority news on projects and developments, or simply hear our latest news, please subscribe to our teachers newsletter here.

We want you to love exploring our Poets and collections and we will continue to develop resources with teachers’ needs in mind:

MyArchive: The MyArchive feature of our website allows you to create your own account and bookmark collections and recordings that you would like to quickly and easily return to later, creating bespoke lessons and streaming collections as and when you are ready. There is no limit to the number of collections you can create, or how long you can keep them – they will be saved and ready as you need them.

Classroom Collections: If you don’t need to keep your own collections ready using MyArchive, you can use one of our tailor made Classroom Collections, which have been curated with teaching in mind. Go to the Teach section of our website and you will find collections such as Gothic Poetry, WW1 Poetry and Caribbean Poetry alongside suggested Lesson Plans and Glossary terms.

Download Audio: Our collections are free where we are able to negotiate those rights with our Poets and publishers, but if you wanted to take poems further you can use our Download Store to purchase individual poems and load them onto other devices to play anytime. We have created specific GCSE teaching focused albums, such as, ‘Poems from the AQA GCSE Anthology’, ‘Poems from the Edexcel GCSE Anthology’ and ‘Power and Conflict (Poems from GCSE Anthologies)’ to support your activities.

We are delighted to continue to support Poetry By Heart and we hope you enjoy exploring our collections.

We look forward to sharing our future plans with you.

Tracey Guiry
The Poetry Archive

Between 2013 and 2016 Poetry By Heart was the principal educational initiative of The Poetry Archive, developed with The Full English and supported by the Department of Education. It was co-founded by Andrew Motion (Co-Director of The Poetry Archive) and Julie Blake ) Co-Director of The Full English and Education Director of The Poetry Archive) in February 2012.

Share via

Shakespeare Sonnet Competition Update

23rd February 2017

20170220_EMAIL_TeachIt_Shakes_1Schools all over the country are setting up their dates for the simple 1 student or 1 staff Shakespeare Sonnet competition and we’re here to help you set up your own!

Why not challenge yourself to learn a sonnet you’re teaching this year by heart? We’ve got all of the sonnets available in our Shakespeare Sonnets Showcase here.

Get started with your Shakespeare sonnet competition by downloading the cheatsheet here and why not contact us if you need any extra support?


Dividing Line

Need Help with PBH 2017?

pbh-handbook-270-170-1The Poetry By Heart competition only needs 3 students to memorise 2 poems (pre-1914, and post-1914), and for you to select 1 winner by 31st March 2017.

Our team of experienced support staff will give you all the best tips and tricks for hosting your competition before the deadline: 31st March 2017. We’ll help you get started and finished in no time at all.

The competition handbook is available to all registered schools and colleges by email in a print friendly format. Simply print off the whole thing or just the pages you need.

If you’d like to have a friendly chat about tips and tricks for getting your competition off the ground – be it Poetry By Heart or the Shakespeare Sonnets competition – we’re here to help and we hope to hear from you soon.


Dividing Line

Your Stories!

Every year we love to hear stories from students and staff who participated in Poetry By Heart – the annual competition to help students discover the joy of memorising and reciting poetry.

Here’s just some of the brilliant tweets and reports we’ve been getting from participating schools.


Whitley Bay High School



Dividing Line

Isleworth & Syon School


Dividing Line

Richmond Park Academy


Dividing Line

Teesdale School


Images used with consent

“The schools very active Poetry Club hosted [this year’s Poetry By Heart] event and we were delighted that once again Anne Fine was able to join us as Chair of the Judges.

“This year’s joint winners were Jake Knight and Cal Baker, both in Year 10, who between them recited the poetry of Clough, Gunn, Wilde and Frost.

“They were variously complimented on their ability to learn the poetry with a high degree of accuracy and also to really modulate their voices effectively.

“From this round the students will work on their performances and then go on to have a video recording made of this which will allow judges to decide who goes forward into the final.

Images used with consent

Images used with consent

“In a curriculum where certainly for English Literature at GCSE and A Level, students need to learn quotations from set texts by heart, competitions such as these very much support students’ learning. Also this year for the first time there is another element to the Poetry by Heart Competition, which involves quite simply, learning one of Shakespeare’s sonnets by heart and then reciting it and we are all looking forward to this and hope many of students, and indeed teachers from school, will enter.

“Cassie M Flint”

Dividing LineIf you’d like to tell us about how your competition went, why not get in touch or message us on Twitter or Facebook, too?



Share via

On It Like A Sonnet

20th February 2017

Click to view full size

Our Facebook and Twitter messages recently have featured Shakespeare and learning sonnets.

We thought it would be a fun challenge to see if you could learn a sonnet in a week to join in with our Shakespeare Sonnet competition, which is all about making it quick and easy to run a poetry recitation competition in your school.

You only need one competitor to enter, and anyone in your school – students from Year 7-13, and teaching and support staff, too! – can take part (we hope you’ll find than one).

We’ve created a really easy little step by step ‘recipe for a competition’ cheatsheet for you to download, which tells you everything you need to know about holding this competition.


The Shakespeare Sonnet competition deadline is 31st March 2017, and we have prizes for winners so be sure to tell us who they are!


Dividing Line

Visit The Shakespeare Sonnet Showcase


Click to visit now

Did you know our Shakespeare Sonnet Showcase has been designed to help you find your favourite sonnet?

Each sonnet contains audio clips to listen to, and there are activities designed to help you explore your sonnet in different ways.

Our filters also help you discover sonnets by theme and keywords – why not try a word based on your mood or your favourite season to see what pops up?



Dividing Line

Poetry By Heart 2017 at The British Library!

British Library -- Credit: Tony AntoniouWe’re delighted to announce that we’re holding this year’s Poetry By Heart Winners’ Weekend at the prestigious British Library in London.

The Winners’ Weekend is where all the county winners from this year’s Poetry By Heart competition will be competing to win the coveted Poetry By Heart National Winner’s Trophy.

The very best reciters of the Shakespeare Sonnets will be invited to perform their poems live on stage at this special occasion. There will be prizes!

Save The Date

The Winner’s Weekend is taking place on 22nd and 23rd April 2017, and we’ll be sharing more details throughout the next few weeks so be sure to sign up to our newsletter and watch this space.

Confirmed Judges

Here’s a little about some of the judges who have confirmed will be there so far!

Daljit Nagra – visit Dajit’s site

Patience Agbabi – check out Patience Twitter feed here

Tim Dee – read more about Tim here

Glyn Maxwell – look at Glyn’s Twitter

Jean Sprackland – visit Jean’s website here

Register today

Dividing Line

Free Registration Pack On Its Way To You!

If you’ve already registered, you will already have your competition handbook, but if you’ve misplaced it, just email us via info@poetrybyheart.org.uk and we will send it to you within 24hrs of registering.

The handbook has everything you need to get started immediately. There is still time to hold a small Poetry By Heart competition (all you need is three students), or the Shakespeare Sonnet in a Month challenge.

PLUS, all registered schools and colleges will receive their FREE registration pack, which is brimming with goodies:

FREE posters:

FREE Posters

with NEW designs and bookplates:

New Designs and Bookplates

and FREE books:

FREE books

Want a pack?

Register today

Dividing Line

NEW Learning Zone Coming Soon

Our Poetry By Heart Learning Zone is coming soon. Full of tips and tricks on how to bring more poetry into the classroom, as well as some of our guides on how to make the most of the website.

We’ll announce it’s live via our newsletter and the blog, so be sure to watch this space!

Dividing Line

Get Involved Today!

We have plenty of experience in helping schools hold their competition – and we can get you set up as quickly as 3, 2, 1 – three students, two poems each, one winner.

Whether you decide to the main competition or the Shakespeare Sonnet competition (remember: you only need one entrant for that!), the first step is getting in touch – so drop us an email and let us know what you’d like us to help you with today.

Email Us

Share via

Poetry By Heart Newsletter

7th February 2017

Poetry By Heart Newsletter February 2017

Poetry By Heart Competition 2017 Update

This is our fifth year running the competition, and 2017’s competition is in full swing.

We’ve been receiving notifications from schools all over England that they’re planning on holding – or have already held – their competitions. We’ve loved seeing the photos and hearing about the winners on Twitter.

Set A Competition Date? Let Us Know on Twitter!

Not registered yet or need help setting up your competition?

There’s lots of help at hand! We’ve already emailed all registered schools their competition handbook – no more waiting for the post!

But if you’ve misplaced yours, just email info@poetrybyheart.org.uk or pick up the phone and call us on +44 (0)117 905 5338. You can get started immediately!

Register Your School Today

Dividing Line

Making Your Winner’s Video Submission – Celebrating Your Winners

Once you’ve held your competition, you will need to make a video of your winner’s recitation.

The videos are simple to make and are an excellent way to document the winner’s achievement. You can use the videos to promote your school, your students, and their passion for poetry.

As well as sharing the videos with parents and the rest of the school, why not share them with the local radio station, too? Local communities love poetry, too!

Whether you’ve already held your competition or not, the video recordings are an extra opportunity for winners to polish their performance for the finals.

We’ve provided guidelines on how to make a quick and easy video of your winner in the competition handbook (can’t find yours? Contact us!).

Once you’ve created your winner’s recital video, get in touch and let us know. Our panel of judges will then select the County Winners from your video submissions.

The County Winners will be invited to the live National Finals to battle it out to become Regional Champions. The Regional Champions then compete to find out who is the National Poetry By Heart Champion 2017!

There’s still time to set up and hold your very own Poetry By Heart competition!

If you’d like some extra support to get up and running, don’t hesitate to get in touch via info@poetrybyheart.org.uk or pick up the phone and call us on +44 (0)117 905 5338.


Dividing Line

Shakespeare Sonnets Competition – The Perfect Half Term Challenge!

Recently we announced our new Shakespeare Sonnets showcase. The collection is vibrant and colourful, and features all 154 sonnets for you to enjoy. To celebrate this great addition to our site, we’ve launched a fun Shakespeare recitation competition!

The competition is open to all schools in England. Students from KS3 and above can enter, and we’ve opened up the Shakespeare competition to teaching and support staff to take part in, too!

We’ve made the competition so simple: all you need is one adult entry, and/or one student entry!

Simply send us the video of their sonnet performance and you’ve successfully held the Shakespeare Sonnet Competition!

The deadline for submissions is the same as the Poetry By Heart competition: 31st March 2017.

Get started by registering your school.

Half Term Challenge. Why not challenge students and staff alike to select a sonnet and learn it by heart over the half term break? Narrow down the search: try filtering to the Classics. Try picking a theme close to your heart and use our keyword filter! E.g. your favourite season winter or summer. E.g. Something romantic such as eyes, heart, love or kiss

Remember to let us know about your Shakespeare competition. The best ones will be invited to perform them live!

Watch this space for more updates about our Shakespeare Sonnets showcase and competition.

Dividing Line

Get In Touch – Support and Updates

If you’re not registered yet, or you’re worried you don’t have time, or just don’t know where to start, we’re here to help!

You only need 3 students for your competition, two poems each, and 1 competition this term!

Why not start by setting a half term challenge to learn a poem by heart (see above)?

Ways to get in touch:


Dividing Line

Jacob Polley wins TS Eliot Prize!

In other poetry news, we’d like to congratulate Jacob Polley, who has won the prestigious TS Eliot Prize for his collection Jackself (2016).

Polley features in our anthology timeline, designed to take visitors on a journey through over a thousand years of poetry. Why not start with a visit to Polley’s poem Langley Lane?

Polley’s work is often threaded with observations of the natural world, sometimes described as haunting yet lyrical. He offers an unexpected perspective on everyday things, and Jackself joins his collection of poetry The Brink (2003), and his novel Talk Of The Town (2009).

Visit our Anthology Timeline

Dividing Line

Calling All Poetry Lovers!

Don’t worry if your school isn’t in England but you would still like to hold your own competition, you absolutely can!

Get in touch via info@poetrybyheart.org.uk or pick up the phone and call us on +44 (0)117 905 5338 – we would love to hear about which poems you chose to learn by heart, or what you’ve liked most about Poetry By Heart.

Want More Updates? Sign Up To Our Newsletter

Share via

Register for FREE Poetry By Heart resources

23rd January 2017

Help your students learn poems by heart – and have fun! Join the FREE competition for schools and colleges in England.

Our Poetry By Heart poetry recitation competition is open for 2017!

It’s our fifth year running the successful competition designed to take poetry off the page and bring it to life through teachers and students and on the stage. It’s very easy to participate!

All you need is 3 students, 2 poems and 1 Spring term!

Simply register your school here and we will send you our free resource pack which includes:

  • a free copy of Forward Arts 100 Prized Poems
  • gorgeous classroom poem posters to help promote your competition
  • our competition handbook to help you get students learning poems by heart.

If you’re not at a school in England you can still learn more by signing up for our newsletter where we’ll keep you informed of all our latest developments and the newest poems made available on our site. These web resources are free to use for anyone, anywhere in the world – fill your boots!

Or get in touch with us via info@poetrybyheart.org.uk with your questions.


NEW Shakespeare Sonnets Showcase



We’re absolutely delighted to announce a brand new showcase dedicated to celebrating Shakespeare and his sonnets written over 400 years ago.

The Shakespeare Sonnets showcase has been designed to be really accessible to students and teachers alike; we’ve made all 154 sonnets available for you in one easy to view page.

Jump into a random sonnet or use the filters to sort through numerically, or find a sonnet that fits a theme you’re currently discussing. The keyword search facility is excellent for finding that one sonnet you’re looking for, or just sating your curiosity.

We’ve also handpicked an assortment of sonnets we’ve called our Chosen 60 that we think are particularly interesting, with activities to bring the sonnets to life just a click away. Take your ears on a Shakespearean journey and listen to the sonnets performed by various notable performers and – if you’re really inspired – why not pick a sonnet to recite in our up-coming Shakespeare Sonnet competition – watch this space for more information soon!


Explore our other showcases


Have you had a chance to view our other showcases? Our First World War Poetry showcase is different to typical collections, introducing a wide range of voices on the event, and our Poetry For Children has been created with bright colourful pictures to capture imaginations and fun activities to try.


Keep Up To Date

Our newsletter is free and sent straight to your inbox. Sign up here and we’ll keep you informed of all of the latest poems on the site, up-coming events news and more.

If you still have questions, get in touch with us by email via info@poetrybyheart.org.uk or call 0117 905 5338.

Share via