The benefits of reading and writing poetry for young people include enhanced wellbeing and a number of transferable skills, such as developing attention to detail, critical analysis, and logic, not to mention the sheer joy of creativity.
For years, The Poetry Society has supported teachers and librarians to bring poetry into schools through its education programmes, as well as nurturing young people’s creative writing directly through the Young Poets of the Year Award and Young Poets Network. poetrysociety.org.uk/education.
Poet Rakaya Fetuga delivering a Poets in Schools visit.
At school, I don’t remember being particularly inspired by the poetry we studied to write poems of my own. The only time I’d ever written what I considered to be a poem was at age six, when we wrote acrostics using the names of our pets. Like many other young people, though, I secretly scribbled about my feelings in the backs of notebooks or on receipts. It was only when I spotted a bright blue poster in the English department at school advertising The Poetry Society’s projects for young people that it occurred to me that someone my age could be a poet. As a teenager, I entered and won the Young Poets of the Year Award, funded by the Foyle Foundation since 2001; since then, I have continued writing, and started editing and producing poetry publications at university.
Recently, my experience led me back to The Poetry Society’s Education team in the role of Education Coordinator, giving me insights from both sides of its projects. The initiatives we run range in their focus. While The Poetry Society’s online community, Young Poets Network, provides opportunities for writers aged 5–25 and the Young Poets Award celebrates 11–17 year olds, our schools-based projects support teachers, librarians and educators with bringing poetry and creative writing into schools. The Education team publishes a newsletter with regular updates about our projects for schools: to sign up, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Young Poets of the Year Award
The Poetry Society’s Young Poets of the Year Award supports and accelerates the writing careers of young people aged 11–17. Every year a pair of high-profile judges read poems submitted by young people from across the world and identify winners who would particularly benefit from talent-development opportunities. Prizes range from a place at an Arvon residential writing course to in-school mentoring and goodie bags.
The most recent winners of the Young Poets Award on an Arvon writing retreat.
Slightly unusually for a competition of its popularity and prestige, the Award’s scope has extended far beyond the winners’ prize ceremony each autumn. Winners are supported by The Poetry Society throughout their later writing careers with workshops and various career-development opportunities. In the past two years, we’ve supported Young Poets Award alumni Phoebe Stuckes and Jenna Hunt in joining Simon Armitage on his Laureate’s Library Tour, as well as facilitating Giovanni Rose’s and Elsie Hayward’s performances at Shakespeare’s Globe in a showcase for Poetry By Heart, the national poetry-speaking competition.
Supporting teachers and librarians
The Poetry Society has been working with teachers to support the use of poetry in the classroom for years now. Through the Young Poets Award, we have celebrated and nurtured best practice in creative-writing teaching by identifying ‘Teacher Trailblazers’, supporting these educators to create lesson plans and to mentor other teachers. We have also offered free poet-led workshops for ‘Applauded’ schools, who show particular commitment to encouraging their students’ love of poetry.
More recently, The Poetry Society launched Cloud Chamber, an online network where poets and educators can meet over Zoom quarterly to share ideas, resources and best practice for all ages. Teachers and librarians looking to incorporate poetry into their classroom, whether through English lessons or extracurricular activities, can access a toolkit outlining the benefits of poetry in schools and ideas for poetry exercises in the classroom. Meanwhile, The Poetry Society’s Poets in Schools programme allows schools to book a visiting poet to facilitate assemblies, workshops and INSET sessions – you can find out more about how to arrange and prepare for a poet’s visit in the toolkit itself. Sign up for Cloud Chamber by emailing email@example.com and find the toolkit at bit.ly/CloudChamberTeacher.
A Young Poets Takeover at Verve Poetry Festival.
On our microsite Poetryclass, teachers can access free downloadable lesson plans covering a range of ages, topics and abilities. If you’re looking to incorporate poetry into a wider theme that pupils are exploring in the classroom, you can filter lesson plans by topics including ‘climate change’, ‘texts from other cultures’ and ‘confidence’. Key Stage 1 and 2 teachers can use our free resource Poetry Train to boost their confidence using poetry in primary-school classrooms, while Key Stage 4 teachers will find our free worksheets and accompanying video resources covering Unseen Poetry useful at GCSE. Access Poetryclass at resources.poetrysociety.org.uk.
Young Poets Network
Our commitment to bringing poetry to young people extends beyond the classroom and the Young Poets Award. In 2011, The Poetry Society launched Young Poets Network, an online platform for poets under the age of 25. We regularly run ‘challenges’ – small themed competitions that reward winners with prizes including books and posters – and accessible features on a range of topics, ranging from reviewing tips by leading critics to essays by poets about class, love and language. Young Poets Network runs many of these challenges and features in collaboration with external partners such as People Need Nature, Portland Japanese Garden, and the British Council.
The resources on the Young Poets Network website are freely available for anyone interested in reading or writing poetry. While the platform is primarily aimed at young people under 25, teachers, librarians and parents will find its resources useful too. Recently, we started a ‘How to Work in the Arts’ series, interviewing poets, curators and publishers about their career paths in order to inspire and offer free advice to the next generation of poets and producers: ynp.poetrysociety.org.uk/young-poets/how-to-work-in-the-arts/.
As a teenage winner myself, one of the most impactful parts of winning the Young Poets Award were the tote bags of free poetry books handed out at the ceremony. My local library has only a handful of poetry books, mostly published long before I was born, so being gifted these newer books felt like an invitation to the world of contemporary writing. Since then, that feeling of being welcomed by The Poetry Society has shaped much of my writing, and my confidence more widely.