Poetry can sometimes be overlooked, often considered ‘old-fashioned’ or indeed ‘difficult,’ and yet poems can and do engage both young and old in a way no other form of literature perhaps can. Second World War poetry is often studied at GCSE level but the power of Simon Armitage’s recent poem for Ukraine, has shown how very relevant poetic response can be, to current affairs and our ‘every day’. At Cokethorpe, we aim to develop a pupil’s understanding of their world and poetry is an excellent platform through which to do this.
Pupils in the Prep School have all been studying poetry this half term. Every pupil from Year 3 upwards has gone on to learn a poem by heart. The subject of the Natural World was chosen, since many of our children feel strongly about environmental issues and all have relished reading the iconic book, The Lost Words by Robert McFarlane and Jackie Morris. This experience has deepened their understanding of poetic devices but most importantly, the joy of knowing and reciting verses from memory. It has been wonderful to overhear pupils sharing poems out at play or as they move along corridors, for the sheer pleasure of the words and rhythms.
To celebrate these studies, our ‘Evening of Verse’ showcased a range of poetic performances. The most confident pupils delivered their solo, poetry choices to a full audience in The Shed. Teetering on a lonely stage block, highlighted by a dazzling spotlight: Julia (Year 3, Baker), Juno (Year 4, Symonds), Grady (Year 4, Symonds), Joshua (Year 5, Gwyn), Oliver (Year 5, Symonds), Iona (Year 6, Gwyn) and Molly (Year 6, Lockwood), bravely took on this nerve-racking challenge, performing their poems with engaging actions and eloquent delivery.
The Senior School Choir delighted everyone with their selection of impressive and entertaining songs, involving part-singing, rounds, solo sections and over-weaving of harmonies. The pupils’ love of performance was very apparent as they boogeyed the saxophone parts with confidence and style! Representatives from the LAMDA programme went on to delight everyone with their effective ‘conversation poems’. Bobbie (Year 6, Symonds), Darcy (Year 6, Baker), Freya (Year 6, Lockwood) and Iona (Year 6, Gwyn), impressed and surprised the audience with their comic timing, length of remembered verses and ironic messages within their chosen pieces.
Furthermore, the audiences were treated to a performance piece, involving three classes reciting stanzas together. Years 3 and 4 charmingly retold the poem, Wild Symphony, by Dan Brown. This was delivered with lively choreography and brilliantly chosen ‘token’ costumes and props. It was evident how much enjoyment the pupils reaped from working collaboratively, to produce this very effective and cheering piece.
Madame Fuchs’ pupils then took to the stage, performing in pairs to recite animal poems in Spanish with an accompanying translation. It was noted by Spanish speakers in the audience that the pupils’ accents were particularly impressive. Enormous applause was most certainly deserved for these brave pupils: Emily (Year 6, Symonds), Connie (Year 6, Symonds), Daisy (Year 6, Gwyn), Aurora (Year 6, Baker), Lili (Year 6, Baker), Iona (Year 6, Gwyn), Freya (Year 6, Lockwood) and Bobbie (Year 6, Symonds).
The older classes completed the evening with their retelling of the well-known narrative poem, The Highwayman by Alfred Noyse. The pupils expertly built up the impassioned story of love, envy, pride and loyalty through their delivery and carefully chosen movement. The final verse left the audience momentarily silent as the tragedy of the tale was truly felt within the room – a testament to the pupils’ understanding and powerful delivery of the poetry. Hopefully poetry will continue to be part of each child’s choice of reading, as they grow and journey through the School.
Mrs Mersh, Head of Prep English