Press release

Launch of national poetry anthology for teenagers

Information on a new national poetry competition and poetry anthology for students aged 14 to 19 years.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

The poems of John Donne, Lord Byron and Sylvia Plath are among those included in an anthology for a new national poetry competition which launches in schools and colleges today.

The anthology contains 130 pre-1914 and post-1914 poems selected by poets Sir Andrew Motion and Jean Sprackland and includes poems such as John Donne’s ‘The Good-Morrow’ and Lord Byron’s ‘The Destruction of Sennacherib’. The collection also includes modern poems like Daljit Nagra’s ‘Look We Have Coming to Dover’ and Patience Agbabi’s ‘Josephine Baker Finds Herself’.

The full collection has been published by Poetry by Heart as an interactive timeline which encourages students to browse individual poems, and find out more about the poets who wrote them.

The body of work will give students and teachers the opportunity to study a coherent range of poems from different periods, and will provide a foundation for exploring poetry over time.

More than 250 schools and colleges have already registered to enter the competition, which will see thousands of students aged 14 to 18 competing to become national champion for their skill in memorising and performing poems. The school and college-level competitions will take place in the spring.

Education Secretary Michael Gove said:

The richness and diversity of this anthology will ensure that more children than ever will be captivated by the work of many great poets. I am grateful to Sir Andrew Motion for spearheading a project of this magnitude and for helping to pass our cultural legacy on to the next generation.

Sir Andrew Motion said:

The anthology is a cornucopia in which familiar poems from the canon appear alongside less well-known pieces - and burnish one another. Story poems, love poems, frightening poems, tender poems, political poems, comical poems, poems that show the world as it is, and poems that look through the world into infinite space.

In every case, 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.

Launching in schools and colleges this week, the aims of the competition are to:

  • promote understanding of poetry as a dynamic art form and enable pupils to develop self-confidence and creative understanding
  • give teachers the opportunity to extend and develop their teaching of poetry, and give them a new method of promoting skills of memorisation and performance
  • offer pupils an opportunity to extend and enrich their knowledge of poetry, both pre-1914 and post-1914.

The Department for Education is providing £500,000 of funding to The Poetry Archive to develop and run the national poetry competition as part of its commitment to help bring poetry to life in schools.

The final stage of the competition will be a ‘finals weekend’ based on regional heats, which will lead to a grand final held at the National Portrait Gallery in April 2013.

Notes to editors

The full anthology is available on Poetry By Heart’s website. The website also contains competition information for schools, material about poems and performances, and teaching resources.

The national poetry competition is open to schools and colleges in England only.

To register, schools should email or telephone 0117 905 5338

Poetry By Heart is an educational initiative of The Poetry Archive. The Poetry Archive is the world’s premier online collection of recordings of poets reading their own work.

Sir Andrew Motion is UK poet laureate 1999-2009, and co-founder and Director of the Poetry Archive.

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Published 7 February 2013