National Poetry Day: A buzz went round the school…

The school community was flooded with poetry yesterday in honour of National Poetry Day, which this year celebrates its 25th anniversary.


U3 and L4 girls had been preparing for this by visiting the Library to add leaves to our special “Poe-Tree” with lines of their favourite poems before “growing” their own poems from poems that they loved, inspired by Mrs Hawkes’ creative response to Carol Ann Duffy’s ‘Valentine’.  


On the day itself, prayers for L5-U6 included poetry readings by our chapel prefect Martha in U6 and Millie and Rheia in U5, all linked to this year’s theme of truth: the poem Millie read, Advice for Teenage Girls with Trembling Hearts and Wild Ambitions by Clementine von Radics had a particularly powerful message for our girls about how they can stand up for what is right and true in the world around them. 


We launched our “Pay It Forward” poetry e-mail chains, with 41 randomly-selected pupils receiving e-mails with the first line of a poem supplied by poet Phoebe Nicholson (the line was “A buzz went round the school”), with the instruction to add a line, word or punctuation mark and send it on to the next recipient in their chain. These e-mails are now flying between girls and staff and we will look forward to seeing some of these completed community poems over the next few days. 



Cross-curricular collaboration played a big part in the day – from the Computing Department’s help with producing our e-mail chains, to the Geography Department’s exploration of the Places of Poetry interactive map to the Modern Languages Department’s display of ‘favourite’ in different languages (inspired by a similar display in the English Department.) Even Sixth Form Further Mathematicians got stuck in, with a collaboratively-written acrostic about mathematics, showing that creativity is as much a part of STEM subjects as the Arts! 


The buzz continued around the School at lunchtime, with scores of girls taking part in our Poetry Treasure Hunt, with rhyming clues directing them to strategically placed poems sharing a linked theme. 


We were also delighted to welcome poet, performer, lexicographer and founder of Oxford Poetry Library, Phoebe Nicholson, into school. Phoebe is involved in a wide range of community poetry projects including working with mental health charities and people facing homelessness, so was a hugely inspiring guest. Phoebe led three workshops in the afternoon for over 50 girls all the way from Year 6 through to U6, using dinosaurs as a stimulus. After looking at poems about misunderstood iguanodons and oviraptors, they were challenged to write their own poems attesting to hidden truths about misunderstood creatures, objects or people.


We were bowled over by their responses – from impassioned climate change poems about polar bears and penguins, to snakes, scarecrows, puddles and even Bonnie and Clyde! 

The day culminated in our annual poetry slam in the Lea Library, which Phoebe Nicholson had the unenviable job of adjudicating. As ever, the display of poetic talent from all year groups was phenomenal. Responses to the theme of truth included Rabiah’s powerful exploration of Fake News for Windrush, Elin’s moving poem about lies we are told at different stages in life for Isis and Hannah’s pithy limerick about a young girl called Ruth for Cherwell. After much deliberation, Phoebe announced the winning poem as Katerina’s beautifully written ‘The Taste of Truth’ for Ford – congratulations to everyone who took part! 


In her final adjudication, Phoebe said how struck she had been by the girls’ creativity and their passion for communicating the truth in the world today. It was great to see so many of them choosing to do that through poetry.