Yesterday saw the culmination of this year’s celebrations of National Poetry Day here at Alleyn’s. Events began last week when pupils from Years 9 to 13 delighted the whole Senior School community with an assembly that considered the very nature of poetry. As we listened to works ranging from Kae Tempest’s ‘Picture a Vacuum’ and Rumi’s ‘Guest House’ to Mbuyiseni Oswald Mtshali’s ‘Sunset’, we were encouraged by Year 11 pupil Orla to see that “poetry can just be a thought you had; something you spotted on the way home, or even just a single word. Poetry can be anything you want it to be.”
When we asked Head Jane Lunnon about her favourite poem, she immediately offered an excerpt from T.S. Eliot’s ‘Little Gidding’:
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
…Quick now, here, now, always—
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well.
“It’s hard to imagine a better articulation of what life is and the joyful balance between restless searching and final enlightenment”, she said, adding that she always had poems on her bathroom walls.
Celebrations continued with our Pause for Poetry posters that appeared around school, everywhere from toilet doors to alongside Edward Alleyn’s portrait in the Main Corridor. Over 50 poems were nominated by members of staff and all members of the school community have enjoyed the opportunity to pause and reflect on such diverse works as Tupac Shakur’s ‘The Rose That Grew From Concrete’ to John Keats’ ‘Ode to Autumn’. Entries to our poetry competition have been flooding in, while our Poetry Trail – which combines poetry and puzzle-solving – has been entertaining pupils in the Lower and Middle Schools.
Whilst poetry is a cornerstone of the rich and varied English curriculum here at Alleyn’s, National Poetry Day offers us a unique chance to celebrate it beyond the classroom as a source of inspiration, comfort and release.
By Alex Smith, Head of English
National Poetry Day was founded in 1994 by the charity Forward Arts Foundation, whose mission is to celebrate excellence in poetry and increase its audience. The Day enjoys the support of the BBC, Arts Council England and leading literary and cultural organisations, alongside booksellers, publishers, libraries and schools. This year’s National Poetry Day on 7 October was on the theme of ‘Choice’.
Main image: Excerpt from 'The Hill We Climb' by Amanda Gorman