Poetry By Heart Blog

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!


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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

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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!

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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

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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? :)

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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?


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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.


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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



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Isleworth & Syon School


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Richmond Park Academy


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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?



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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

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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.


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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.

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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:


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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

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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

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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.

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Poetry by Heart in York

18th March 2015

Above: Winner Georgina Watkiss and Poet/Judge Helen Cadbury


University of York students Kate Murphy, Laura Wood and Becky Goodwin share their experiences of a PBH County Contest at York Explore – the venue for the North Yorkshire and East Riding County Contest.


The County Contest:

Despite the nervous excitement of the competitors, the entire day at York Explore felt relaxed and enjoyable, and the atmosphere was hugely positive and encouraging. There were cakes with the PBH logo on to welcome us with tea and drinks and the chance to relax and chat about reciting poetry before the competition started.

Teachers, parents, contestants, judges and librarians all told us about the value they placed on the competition. Here are just a few reasons why Poetry by Heart offers such a fantastic opportunity to everyone who gets involved:

It’s something different to get involved in. Frances Postlethwaite, Explore Library’s Children and Young People’s Librarian, said how the competition caters for an age group not often seen in libraries, and that it was nice to see young people in such a positive light. The parents we spoke to also valued the competition for encouraging students to do something different: poetry often seems less relevant to young people, but Poetry by Heart gives students a way of engaging with it on a very personal level.

The opportunity to engage with poetry in the way it was intended to be enjoyed: out loud!  When we spoke to the judges after the competition, they were impressed by the contestants’ successful engagement with difficult themes such as war. It was clear that the interpretation of the poems they gave came from the contestants themselves, and the dramatic aspect was clearly something the students enjoyed!

The competition element and excitement of competing beyond school level. The regional event was particularly exciting, with judges from various backgrounds covering creative writing to academia.  Georgina Watkiss, the winner from Ripon Grammar School, spoke of how she enjoyed speaking to contestants from different schools. At the final prize giving it was clear from the nervous excitement that all the contestants were fully invested in the competition, and went home with a clear sense of achievement (and quite a lot of cake)!

The winner:

Despite Georgina Watkiss’s three fantastic recitals, when finding out that she won the Yorkshire division of the Poetry by Heart semi-final, she was what could only be described as gobsmacked, although this does reflect on the extremely high standard of performances presented on the day. However, what is somewhat more surprising are the A level subjects that Georgina studies. The majority of students competing at the Yorkshire semi-final studied English literature, and as a result it was easy to see where their love of poetry and drive to enter the competition stemmed from.

On the contrary, Georgina doesn’t study English literature and rather than immersing herself in the humanities, Georgina studies maths, biology, chemistry and psychology. Therefore, it is especially impressive that Georgina did so well, considering that poetry is purely a hobby for her. Georgina commented, “I can’t really spell and I’m not very good at it but I really like poetry”.

However, although Georgina certainly spent a great deal of time practicing by herself in her room, the English department at Ripon Grammar School supported Georgina leading up to the competition and on the day.

When choosing the three poems for the competition, Georgina noted that it was initially daunting as the anthology was so big, however she knew that she wanted poems that contrasted. Georgina’s elder sister, being a “huge Oscar Wilde fan”, helped her to pick The Ballad of Reading Gaol, whereas Georgina chose The Wedding as she liked the way in which it built up using similes, and finally Rain, a poem which she knew of before the competition and really enjoyed.

When asked what she thought of the competition, Georgina commented saying, “The competition is great because it’s different and poetry is supposed to be spoken, and through saying it out loud you can often understand it better than simply reading it”. Furthermore, the judges said that through trying alternative accents when reciting poetry, you can learn so much more about the poem due to the change in rhythm and stresses on distinctive words and phrases”.

Georgina’s win at the Yorkshire division semi-final is not only an impressive feat, but also proof of the accessibility of the competition. Although, Georgina doesn’t study English literature A level, her love of poetry and enthusiasm for it to be read out loud secured her a first place position.

Teacher  involvement  from The Mount school in York:

How we are involved: We have participated in the competition for the last three years and Mount students Niamh Devlin and Amelia Cook went on to win the county competition and perform at the Final. Both students comment on how it has really opened their eyes to the power and beauty of spoken poetry. Interestingly, I think participating in the competition has also really improved my students ‘ability’ to respond to poetry in a more exploratory manner, in their written work. We think ‘Poetry by Heart’ a wonderful and very valuable initiative in promoting the love of and deeper understanding of poetry.

What we do:  At The Mount we get all students in Years 10 and 11, plus our Sixth Form Literature students to learn one of the poems for an initial, internal round. We get the GCSE students to make the poem a presentation, with an introduction about the poet and a personal response to the poem – this can then also be assessed for Speaking and Listening purposes. We get Lower Sixth pupils, who are studying AQA Spec A, to learn a poem from WW1-their chosen area of study-and Year 13 students to learn a ‘Love’ poem. Their area of study is ‘ Love through the Ages’. We also publicise the competition more widely and encourage any student, if she so desires, to participate, regardless of whether they are studying English Literature or not. Once we have selected class/year group winners, we have an internal competition, where the students recite their chosen poems. The winner goes forward to the County final.

The County Contest: The Mount participants and myself thoroughly enjoyed the experience at York Explore this year which was a lovely venue and as always, at Poetry by Heart, the support staff were delightful and what really strikes me about the competition is how friendly and supportive the whole experience is for students. Even though our representative Isobel Sygrove, was not a winner, she found the experience very enjoyable and particularly welcomed the opportunity to hear how the same poem can be interpreted in different ways.

The Future…

As everyone involved in the competition spoke so highly of it, it seems natural to talk about the future of Poetry by Heart. Now in its third year, the competition has been growing steadily in reputation. However, a question posed by several people that we spoke to was: how do we get more people involved?

Teachers Simon Chapman and Fiona Holland (Woldgate College) stressed the importance both of getting children involved with poetry, and of finding a way to make space within the curriculum pressures for those children who really do enjoy poetry.  This competition seems like a perfect way to do that, and in fact, Woldgate College suggested getting children involved from a younger age.

The competition is open to years 10 – 13, but perhaps engaging children in poetry, specifically this kind of performed-poetry, from a younger age would encourage more students to get involved when they reach year 10. It was noted by everyone we interviewed that the performance element really brought something special; it was clear that these poems had come to mean a lot to the young people reciting them.

Parents of one of the competitors on the day mentioned how valuable the videos of previous winners performing had been, telling us that they made the competition and the poetry less daunting.

The videos showcase the competitors, and also what the competition is about. Poetry by Heart isn’t about being a professional poet, or a professional performer; it’s about the students using their own voices, and their own interpretations to really connect with a piece of poetry, and then pouring that emotion into their performances. The video resources are a really important way to demonstrate to those taking part (and to those thinking of taking part) that, as Georgina, the winner on the day, declared: they can do it!

These videos are readily available on the Poetry By Heart website, so let’s spread the word!

Finally, Georgina told us that she would definitely do it again, and would definitely recommend it to others- surely that glowing review will inspire you to get involved? But if not, how about this quote from Don Paterson (courtesy of Hugh, one of the judges on the day): “Most of us can’t own a Leonardo, or a Turner, but if you know a poem by heart then you’ve got one of the world’s great masterpieces”.

About the Authors

 Kate Murphy – I’m a second year History of Art student. I was keen to take part in the PBH work placement as I thought it would be a great opportunity to get involved with something happening in York. Also I  loved the poetry competitions at school when I was little, so the idea of revisiting that but seeing the poetry recited at a higher standard really grabbed me. I was curious and excited to see the performances.

Laura Wood – I’m a second year undergrad studying English and Related Literature. I am really passionate about educational opportunities outside the classroom, and knew about Poetry by Heart from college, so I thought it would be a fantastic thing to get involved with.

 Becky Goodwin – I’m a 3rd year English language and linguistics student. I wanted to get involved in the project because, as a drama-lover, I really liked the  sound of the poetry recital competition.




A view of  Poetry by Heart from Ripon Grammar – Georgina’s School


Here at RGS we have followed the Poetry by Heart scheme from its quiet inception three years ago.  Nationally, and within our school, it is growing steadily, and is particularly appealing to students who aim to pursue any career which might involve public speaking.

However, it has also given us a new focus on poetry.  In July a former student, Dr Paul Hullah, visited to speak at our annual prize-giving.  He attended RGS in the ‘70s and is now Associate Professor of British Literature and Culture at Meiji Gakuin University in Japan.   Dr Hullah is also a published author and poet and during his visit he shared his detailed knowledge of the Haiku, running workshops where students produced some fabulous work of their own.

In 2015 we wanted to extend Poetry by Heart and encourage more of our students to take part.  Therefore, in celebration of National Poetry Day, we ran it as a House competition and involved all year groups.  Each of the four school Houses sent representatives and we ran a series of heats at lunchtimes, using the same criteria as Poetry by Heart.  Lower School students could choose any poem, while the older ones had to use the Poetry by Heart anthology. House points were awarded to the successful contestants.

Prior to the competition we took the opportunity to involve our Patron of Reading, Dave Cryer (www.davecryer.co.uk), who ran a ‘hints and tips’ workshop for the contestants on performing poetry out loud.

The school final was held in the library during lunchtime and the performances were wonderful, with all the competitors doing themselves proud.

RGS competitors and judges
















The judges for the competition were Mrs Mars, English teacher, and Simon Edwards, proprietor of our fantastic local independent bookshop, Little Ripon Bookshop.  Mr Edwards commented:

“Thank you for the lovely opportunity to judge the Poetry by Heart Upper School Heats. All the contestants were confident and well prepared and they had chosen some very interesting and challenging poems. I’m sure that the winner will do very well in the next round.”

Juliet, one of our impressive competitors, said:

“We had to select one poem from a given list and learn it well enough to perform, being judged on criteria such as ‘voice and articulation’ and ‘evidence of understanding.’ We all then performed our poems on the Friday in the library with a special guest judge, Mr Simon Edwards of The Little Ripon Bookshop. I must confess that it’s a nerve-wracking experience (certainly not helped by the fact that I left learning my poem until the last minute) but very enjoyable to hear everyone’s takes on their respective poems.“

We are hopeful that some of the younger students will be enthused and will themselves take part in the national competition in a few years’ time.

Of course, the main objective was to find our school winner.  This was Georgina Watkiss, who then went on to represent Ripon Grammar School at the county contest which was held in York on National Libraries Day last month.

We were welcomed to the fantastic, newly re-opened Explore Library York.  Georgina and the other county finalists had the opportunity to take part in a pre-contest workshop to warm them up and then the performances began.  The level was extremely high, with all eight contestants giving fabulous recitations of their poems, and we were delighted when Georgina was announced as the winner of this county contest!  As I write Georgina and I are preparing to travel down to Homerton College in Cambridge for the regional and national finals, and are looking forward to meeting the other competitors and their school chaperones for what promises to be an experience we will never forget.

I am lucky to have a very supportive English teacher, Helen Mars, who is my ‘partner in crime’ for Poetry by Heart.  When she recently attended a cluster meeting with local primary staff she put forward the idea of a competition based on Poetry by Heart for Year 6 children.  The new National Curriculum programme of study for Upper Key Stage 2 includes “preparing poems and play scripts to read aloud and to perform, showing understanding through intonation, tone, volume and action”, and so this suggestion was met with enthusiasm.

We now plan to pilot this scheme in the Summer Term this year.  We will encourage local primaries to hold their own poetry recitation competitions to a find a school representative who will then attend a final event hosted here at Ripon Grammar School.  Helen and I will put together an anthology of poems from which they can choose.  The event will consist of a poetry masterclass and the final, where the Year 6 champion will be crowned.  I am really looking forward to this development, so watch this space!

Mrs Dring

Learning Resources Manager/Literacy Co-ordinator

Ripon Grammar School


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Teesdale School and Poetry By Heart

1st February 2015

Chair of Judges author Anne Fine

Teesdale English teacher Cassie Flint reflects on the use of Poetry By Heart in the classroom.


Teesdale School had a great start to the competition with the delightful presence of award winning author Anne Fine as our chief judge. She had some really inspirational comments to make about our students and hopefully this will help them in the next round. We also had an international judge as a colleague was visiting from Pakistan, where the oral tradition remains remarkably strong and recitation of poetry  is, for many students, a daily experience.

Teesdale competitors and judges

Our school is partnered with a school in Abbottabad which is in the north west of Pakistan where I visit each year. Each day  begins with a recitation of a passage from the Qu’ran. As a result of being a judge on the competition, Rafia Naz, our partner from Pakistan is going to be running a Poetry by Heart competition in the school in Abbottabad. The national poet of Pakistan is Allama Iqbal and he is much loved, as we love Shakespeare. Here is one of his poems



The Age of Infancy


The earth and sky were unknown worlds to me

Only the expanse of mother’s bosom was a world to me

Every movement was a symbol of life’s pleasure to me

My own speech was like a meaningless word to me

During infancy’s pain if somebody made me cry

The noise of the door chain would comfort me

Oh! How I stared at the moon for long hours

Staring at its silent journey among broken clouds

I would ask repeatedly about its mountains and plains

And how surprised would I be at that prudent lie

My eye was devoted to seeing, my lip was prone to speak

My heart was no less than inquisitiveness personified

Recitation by girls at the school in Abbottabad

We had prepared for our Poetry by Heart competition by having an extra session of our weekly Poetry Club: in one of these we decided to do a Memory Workshop, chiefly to help our entrants to think about which ways would work best for them in the task of memorising poetry. The main technique we tried was the use of the ‘memory palace’ which  works both visually and by association – and it seemed to work for our students . Here are some useful sites if you are interested in finding out more. We took the verse we were trying to remember and found an image from the first line and made that image as ridiculous and as larger than life as we could, so for example, in Mary Robinson’s Female Fashions for 1799 ( from the Poetry by Heart Anthology) when the first line is

A form, as any taper, fine;

it would make me think of a form, the ones I had to leapfrog over as a primary school child, brown varnished wood and little rounded rubberised feet which cushioned it on the floor- this one would be very bendy and it would be standing on the path outside my front door.

Then, inside the front door there would be a very long thin taper, made of white wax and attached to its side was a massive parking ticket – with that black and yellow edging to it- telling me I had got a fine…..and so it goes on as you construct a whole building ( or palace) within which the strong visual images from this poem will be contained.

Usually in our Poetry Club we do something which we’ve named ‘Wild Writing’ where we devise different ways in which to write poetry both individually and collaboratively. We are a mixed group, though usually sixth form students and a few teachers. One of the early experiments we tried was to do this:

  • Select One from :
  • Playing with the idea
  • Experience
  • Concept
  • Narrative

and then having identified  a ‘way ‘ to write we then came up with a list of words. Our first ones were: element, bus, oak and yellow. We then wrote poems using these parameters.

We also tried our hand at writing song lyrics, writing two lines each, a villanelle and found inspiration from the poetry of the Argentinian poet Alejandra Pizarnik ( whom we have recently discovered).

Here is one of our collaborative ones;

My cane, my pocket change, this ring of keys,

striding out along the midnight sidewalk:

I am painted in navy blue and the

thin strips of luminescence cast down by the moon.

The calm footfall is a son

only I hear.

Lately though we have been looking through the Poetry by Heart timeline and selecting ones to read and give our reactions to as we prepare for the next round of the Poetry by Heart Competition.


Memorising poetry

TED talk on memory

How to use a memory palace


Cassie Flint

I have been an English teacher for many, many years and throughout all the changes I have seen, the one constant in all my English teaching has been my love of poetry. I have written myself since I was a young girl and maybe, being the daughter of a novelist, in a way encouraged me. I grew up in St.Ives in Cornwall at a time when there were great artists there and I met them as my father’s friends. For that reason too the sea and the literature which asks the big questions in life appeal to me.  In my later years I have begun to travel and have been lucky enough to be part of a British Council Connecting Classrooms Project which takes me to Pakistan and to work in a school there each year. You might be interested in an article I published on my last visit: http://www.theguardian.com/teacher-network/2015/jan/07/schools-taliban-power-of-education

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