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The English department recently took 50 year 11 students to see Poetry Live at the Symphony Hall in Birmingham.  The students have been studying several leading poets over this year and it was a fantastic experience and opportunity not only to see these poets perform and talk about their poetry, but to interact and perform together.    Simon Armitage, Oxford Professor of Poetry and one of Britain’s best poets read his work from the anthology and Carol Ann Duffy and Gillian Clarke gave an exhilarating joint reading.  John Agard, Imitiaz Dharker, Grace Nicols and Dajit Nagra also performed some of their work which was both entertaining and fascinating.   Nicols even got the audience involved in her baby rap!

In the examiner sessions highly experienced Chief Examiners dealt with two skills vital for success in the GCSE English Literature examinations, giving advice and guidance on how to approach the challenging ‘unseen’ section of the exam.  On how to think about the poems and how to write for the best possible results and to look at comparing poems and how to write most effectively – both really useful skills!

The audience were even given the opportunity to ask some of the poets questions, which was insightful and interesting.  I especially found it interesting when Duffy said, when asked about how often she re-drafts her work, that she often tweaks it, especially the verbs because she said that the ‘verbs are the battery of the line.’ I think that is an interesting approach to take when analysing poetry. 

Overall it was a valuable and worthwhile experience; not simply in terms of helping to improve exam performance but also in terms of it being an enriching life experience.