Word Power

Sitting in the train, coming home from Ledbury last week, I was meditating on what I’d experienced over the previous couple of days, and on what we, as poets, had achieved and encountered in all our Ledbury Poetry Festival work with schools over the course of the year. (You can read about the early events we put on here.)

The latest workshops I’d put on for the Festival were with Year 7 and Year 8 pupils. I’d asked them to pull words from the letters that form the name of their school. Then we’d created a poem from the words they’d found.

On the train, I found myself doing the exactly same thing, but starting with the words ‘Ledbury Poetry Festival’. And then, just as in the workshop, I began fitting the words together, coming up with patterns and combinations, a thread, a structure, a story.

The video below is the end result. My ruminations on the six school ‘Poetry Festivals in a Day’ that over the course of this year I had taken part in for Ledbury Poetry Festival (along with fellow poets Sara Hirsch, Rob Gee, Mike Barfield and Matt Black). What I’d seen, what I’d heard, what I’d contributed, what I’d witnessed, what I’d experienced. What we’d unleashed. And its value. The value of giving children and young people a fresh creative space in which to explore and play with words. (Oh how I’d have loved to have had that opportunity when I was at school!)

You can get an idea of the value of these Festival events from the feedback we were getting from the Year 7/8 staff last Thursday:

‘Normally he won’t listen and won’t still still, but today he is so engaged.’


‘We’re seeing a completely different side to them here.’

All this ties in with the discussion I had at Ledbury Poetry Salon recently about the importance of poets working with school pupils. You can hear that discussion – with Festival Director Chloe Garner and fellow poet Sara Hirsch – as a podcast here. (The discussion comes after our initial performances.)

The Year 7 and Year 8 pupils we worked with last week are going to create an anthology from the poems they wrote with us at the Festival. I’m looking forward very much to reading it.

Meanwhile, as I was finishing this poem, I came across an article in the latest  NAWE ‘Writing in Education’ journal about ‘the importance of teachers being writers alongside children being writers’. In this spirit I offer this poem to the pupils I was working with at the Festival. To show them how I do just what I was asking them to do. And how, in this instance, it worked out for me.

I hope it might inspire you to find the poems hidden in the everyday words around you, too.

Anneliese Emmans Dean – theBigBuzz – Bringing poetry to life



National Poetry Day 2013

I had the great good fortune to spend National Poetry Day this year in Cambridge as the guest of The Perse Upper and Prep schools. I learned many things whilst I was there. Such as that it is possible to do Kung Fu whilst reading my Buzzing! book:

Harry doing Kung Fu whilst reading my Buzzing! book

Harry doing Kung Fu whilst reading my Buzzing! book

And that it is possible to have a name that is a quadruple dactyl. And also how valuable it is for a school to have a dedicated librarian.

The librarian at the Upper School is Janice Weatherall, who, along with her colleague Laura, had created a fabulous display in the library in advance of my visit.

Perse Upper School Librarian Janice Weatherall with Assistant Librarian Laura Shattock and the Buzzing! display they’d created

Perse Upper School Librarian Janice Weatherall with Assistant Librarian Laura Alboni and the Buzzing! display they’d created

The librarian at the Prep School, Sylvie Rigby, had also created a wonderful display, and inspired the pupils to enter a competition based on minibeasts they had photographed and written about. The only difficult part of my day was having to judge this competition, as the entries were so many and varied. Congratulations to all the children who took part. I was very impressed by what they had come up with.

Perse Prep School Librarian Sylvie Rigby with pupils' fabulous competition entries

Perse Prep School Librarian Sylvie Rigby with pupils’ fabulous competition entries

I performed a Buzzing! show for the Year 7s at the Upper School, and a different Buzzing! show for the whole school at the Prep School. (All my Buzzing! shows are specially tailored to the particular audience, location and event.)

Performing my Buzzing! show for The Perse Prep School

Performing my Buzzing! show for The Perse Prep School

My shows were followed, in each case, by my signing copies of my Buzzing! book for pupils and chatting with them (my favourite bit!)

I was quite overwhelmed when one Year 7 pupil handed me a card she’d just drawn for me, complete with a fabulous ‘Thank You’ message.

A Thank You card from a Year 7 pupil at The Perse Upper School, Cambridge

A Thank You card from a Year 7 pupil at The Perse Upper School, Cambridge

Then just as I was leaving the Prep School at the end of the day, the Head Teacher mentioned he’d heard some work of mine broadcast on BBC Radio 3 a few days earlier. So, that’s another thing I learned during my National Poetry Day visit to Cambridge! I’ll tell you about that broadcast another time …

Meanwhile, I’d like to thank all the staff and pupils of The Perse Upper and Prep schools for making me so very welcome, and for making National Poetry Day 2013 so enjoyable and memorable for me. Particular thanks go to Janice Weatherall, whose idea it was to invite me in the first place.

Stop Press: You can see what The Perse Upper School made of my visit here.

Anneliese Emmans Deanwww.theBigBuzz.biz – Bringing Poetry to Life

Edgbaston High School for Girls

It was with some trepidation that I tried out  my Brummie accent on a hall full of pupils at Edgbaston High School for Girls in Birmingham on Friday morning. My attempt was greeted with howls of laughter. Howls of derision? Howls of recognition? Who knows … But I did have a great day at the school!

After my Buzzing! show (about insect girl power in the garden), I set about putting on poetry workshops for the girls in Years 7, 8 and 9. This was a big responsibility, as the poems they wrote are going to be entered into a House Competition for Science Week!

I don’t envy the teachers judging the competition, as the girls came up with some fantastic poems in a vast range of styles, including rap, haikus, free verse and rhyming couplets …

I could tell you more, but it’s my turn to write a poem for a deadline now! I need to go off  and work on the poem I’ve been commissioned to write for the Radio 2 Arts Show this Friday (19th March). I’ve been invited on the show to discuss World Poetry Day with the great Roger McGough and host, Eve Pollard.

Just time now to thank everyone at Edgbaston High School for Girls for their warm welcome, and especially to Caroline Greenwood for all the work she put in to ensure the day ran so smoothly.

See photos of the day here.

Stop press: I’ve since been invited back to work with the Prep School. Looking forward to that enormously!

Anneliese Emmans DeantheBigBuzzinfo@theBigBuzz.biz