Poetry By Heart crowns new Champion

Photo: Poetry by heart (Credit: Poetry by Heart)

The finals of Poetry By Heart - the national poetry recitation competition for pupils aged 14 to 18 – were hosted by Homerton this year.

Since its launch in December 2012 an estimated 10,000 students have had some experience of Poetry By Heart, and this year 333 schools and colleges from across the country took part in 43 county competitions;  the winners gathering at Homerton in March for the final contest to crown a national champion.

The day before the competition began the College hosted a dinner for the competitors and their teachers, featuring poetry reading by distinguished poets, including Sir Andrew Motion – former Poet Laureate and Homerton Honorary Fellow – and the Principal Professor Geoff Ward.

Over the following two days the competitors recited three poems in front of a distinguished panel of judges from the world of poetry and academia, including Sir Andrew Motion, Jean Sprackland, Daljit Nagra, Patience Agbabi, Tim Dee, David Whitley, Debbie Pullinger, Catherine Robson and Paul McLoughlin. A special feature of the competition this year was the reciting of poems from the First World War to commemorate the centenary of the start of the conflict.  

After a close competition, Emily Dunstan (16) from Graveney School, Tooting was declared the new champion, presented with a specially designed trophy by Sir Andrew. Praising the performances of all the competitors, the former Poet Laureate said that “Poetry is in safe hands”.

Photo: Poetry by Heart
Credit: Poetry by Heart

Over the course of the competition the judges heard a diverse range of poetry, with Emily performing  ‘The Fish’ by Elizabeth Bishop; ‘The Death Bed’ by Siegfried Sassoon and ‘Ode to a Nightingale’ by John Keats.

The Rt Hon. Nicky Morgan MP, the Secretary of State for Education, commented on the competition’s success: “I am delighted so many more young people are learning to love poetry as a result of this excellent competition. It is a brilliant way to develop a deep understanding of someone’s work which is why we have placed poetry at the heart of our reformed English literature GCSE.”

In addition to watching fellow competitors recite, students enjoyed a range of activities including tours of Cambridge, creative writing workshops, and talks on applying to University.