Education & Family

Pupils compete in learning poetry

Poets' Corner in Westminster Abbey
Image caption Poets' Corner, Westminster Abbey: Pupils are being encouraged to memorise verse

An online anthology representing eight centuries of poetry in English has been published - to be used as part of a National Poetry Competition for secondary school pupils.

The competition invites teenagers in England to memorise and recite poems from the anthology.

It wants to rekindle the idea of pupils learning poetry by heart.

Education Secretary Michael Gove praised the "richness and diversity" of the competition's poetry collection.

The anthology, selected by former poet laureate Sir Andrew Motion and poet Jean Sprackland, runs from the medieval Gawain poet through to Jacob Sam-La Rose, born in 1976 and described on the website as a "cultural architect".

Making the cut

Such anthologies are always examined for who is included and who is left behind.

Image caption WB Yeats, among the poets included in the anthology, performing his work at the BBC in 1937

And this official competition selection takes in literary giants such as Chaucer, Shakespeare, Blake, Wordsworth, Shelley and Hardy.

Among the post-1914 poets, it includes the likes of Yeats, Eliot, Lowell, Auden, Betjeman, Thomas and Heaney.

There are notable numbers of women in the collection. Philip Sidney doesn't make it, but his sister Mary Sidney Herbert is included. There is no AE Housman but there is Anna Wickham.

Among the 18th Century writers, there is no Oliver Goldsmith but Joanna Baillie gets a place.

The four younger poets included - under the age of 40 - are Vahni Capildeo, Choman Hardi, Jacob Polley and Jacob Sam-La Rose.

The competition for 14 to 18-year-olds, with funding from the Department for Education, wants to bring back the custom of pupils memorising and reciting poems.

It also wants to use such public reading of poetry as a way of building teenagers' self-confidence.

Pupils will be judged on how accurately they remember poems and how well they perform them to an audience.

Image caption Dylan Thomas broadcasting his poems in 1948

There will be regional rounds before a national final in April.

The anthology, published at the beginning of the new school term, was chosen for work that could be read aloud, said Sir Andrew.

"We preferred poems that make a powerful impact when they are heard aloud - not because they are theatrical, but because they dramatise experiences that surprise us into a new apprehension of ourselves and our capacity for imagining, thinking and marvelling."

Mr Gove said the project would ensure that more children would be captivated by great poetry and it would help "pass our cultural legacy on to the next generation".

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