Poetry by Heart is a national poetry recitation competition, open to all schools and colleges in England, with age categories ranging from primary to post 16. Students are required to select two poems from a comprehensive anthology provided by the competition organisers, one written before 1914 and one after. They then have to learn the poems by heart and recite them in front of an audience, in school or college based heats. Assessment guidelines are provided and when a winner emerges he or she will be filmed reciting the poems, thus enabling the organisers to determine who has made it through to the final, which is held annually in London.
The Loreto heat of the competition, coordinated by Ms Warburg, took place in late February. Our students opted for an interesting variety of poems, ranging from favourites such as Shelley’s Ozymandias and Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s sonnet How Do I Love Thee, to the modern work of British Asian writers, Imtiaz Dharker and Moniza Alvi. After an excellent contest, before an enthusiastic and sympathetic audience, Josh Pinnock was declared the winner. Josh chose two fascinating poems, both of which touch on the experience of racial minorities: American writer Paul Dunbar’s We Wear the Mask, written in 1896, is an impassioned cry from a world of segregation and discrimination, whilst James Berry’s On an Afternoon Train from Purley to Victoria, 1995, is a sardonic commentary on ignorance and lack of political and social awareness. The poems are very different in tone and Josh’s delivery had to reflect this, a feat he accomplished admirably. A recording of Josh’s performance has now been sent to the competition organisers and we wait in eager anticipation for the outcome.