Wednesday, June 07, 2023

Senior Poetry Prize 2023

Congratulations to Isabella Treacy, who wins the Peter Dix Memorial Prize for Poetry for the second year, and to Yilong She, who receives a Commendation. First, some of Isabella's winning portfolio.


A Funeral for your Lies 

and an Exhumation of my Truths

 

You could call this a funeral

for your Lies,

and an exhumation 

of my Truths.

 

I was buried next to this unseemly secret

six feet deep with the roots.

Lord knows I should still be

pushing daisies.

 

You took my life 

but it's not the end.

 

I was put in the ground

and now I'm back from the dead.

You should have known 

that something which was never living

can never really die.

 

I’m getting tired of crawling all the way.

I've had enough!

Isn’t it obvious?

Holding the pain like I’m holding my breath

Now that I’m on trial.

 

I won’t be beaten by this,

Not yet.

 

And it’s my whole heart

Being tried and tested,

But it’s mine!

I won’t be buried or burned this time.

 

Who’s the equivocator now?

Keres, help me not to forget,

While I’m on trial,

Wait until the beast comes out.

 

Oh you fool, there are rules,

I’m coming for you.

You can try to outrun this scourger

 but you can’t escape.

 

Holy water cannot save you now.

Now your reckoning begins

and La Pelona will lead you 

to your yawning grave.



I took a journey to the unknown

And I came back changed, 

I can feel it in my bones.

It feels like I've been away for an era

but nothing changed at all.

 

Say goodbye to who I was.

 

You told me to calm down

and asked why my heart had turned rotten?

It still gets my blood boiling.

And now I look at you 

through crimson tinted glasses

 while I stay stuck in the crossfire 

of my own thoughts.

 

La Pelona and I walk side by side

over your spoiled, evil spirit.

You left a deep scar

which I still try to bleach out.

 

I’ll dig a grave for your lies

with a beating heart of stone,

and I’ll never spare 

my sympathy

for someone like you.



Kitchen floors and

 Saints at doors

 

How could I have known

what I was about to trade. 

 

All I knew was that I saw a way

and you saw the worst in me.

 

As I reached for the clouds 

you made sure that I 

would return

to your weightless embrace.

 

I still search for a reason

not to end up in denial,

like those long summer nights

stolen away as the moon falls.

 

Despite the lies you bound to me

                                                          I still love you.

But, I won't wait anymore,

for the parts of you

that are never on show.

 

Yet, my heart yearns 

to lay on the kitchen floor

under you’re unfeeling gaze

as moonlight paints your face.

 

And every morning 

when you wake,

I'll still love those 

mangled bits of you.



Mine Forever

 

I was there,

When you fell from the clouds.

 

When I found you,

 I saw a place like paradise in your eyes,

then I knew that my end would come soon.

 

Those modest saying that meant so much to you,

with me they’ve never quite got through.

I’ve always needed bigger words.

 

I was so full of love that I could hardly breathe.

There isn’t a language for the things I feel.

 

It was such a relief and a horror

To be known so perfectly,

So completely. 

 

You were the one who made me believe,

that I could fly again.

 

Now we’re a story that I don’t want to read.

 

Loving you was easy when I balanced on a knife's edge.

Now your spirit follows me wherever I go,

and I still hear your melody from those days
as you haunt me in the night.

 

When the sun comes up and I go blind,

For a moment, I can blot out the memory of your face

and forget every line, every wrinkle.

 

But, if forever gets too lonely

I’ll meet you where our souls

Meet our bones,

Because in my mind

You’re mine forever.

Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Transition Year English evening, 2023

 

On the evening of Tuesday 30th May we had the 28th annual Transition Year English evening in the BSR (and so, with two years out for pandemic reasons, this event started 30 years ago). The formula has remained little changed: pupils read out interesting work they have written during the year, and a guest speaker associated with English comments on this, and speaks on wider issues. There is no competitive element: this is a pure celebration of writing. At the end of the evening the pupils receive their year’s grades.

This year our guest (who had also come several years ago) was Mr Toirleac O’Brien, former English teacher at Blackrock College (his comments are in brackets after each speaker). The evening was compèred by Mr Jameson.

The first reader was Ava Fagan, with a special memory this year about a scuba-diving trip (so richly descriptive - wonderful). She was followed by Melina Paulsen, who wrote about her first Irish train journey (a delightful piece, with entrancing dialogue). Clodagh Walsh was third, with a short story including the sentence ‘Suddenly there was no noise’ (it opened effectively in the middle). Amaya Street wrote about her memories of her early homes (this looked at how your life might have turned out differently). Jamie Casey then read Alba Perich’s story of first love (very bravely!), followed by a very different piece, Manuela Nassief’s ‘Waterfall’ (with incredible observation, a remarkable piece of writing). Aeladh Bradley-Brady next read her highly ‘imaginative’ piece about losing one sense - hearing. Finally, Iona McCausland wrote on a long-time favourite personal topic, ‘The Oldest Person I Know’, in her case her complicated grandmother (it was deliciously eccentric, with a lovely way of seeing things).

Mr O’Brien then gave us some heart-felt sentiments on the future of writing and reading, particularly given the new AI world we have moved into so recently. His passionate advocacy for books was striking. He finished by commending all the readers on their bravery in reading so personally and intimately in front of their peers.

Finally, congratulations to the Premier Award winners: Aeladh Bradley-Brady, Cajetan Cardona, Carlotta Castagna, Amber Cotton, Ava Fagan, Emilia Hager, Manuela Nassief, Melina Paulsen, Shannon Walker Kinsella, Clodagh Walsh, Alison Wang and Johanna zu Solms.

Monday, May 29, 2023

Voices of Poetry 2023


Voices of Poetry has been going for many years: a unique event, it provides a punctuation point at a particular part of the school year: Sixth Form have finished classes, the Sports Day is over, and ahead are the St Columba’s Day weekend, the public exams, the excitement of trips week, and finally the school exams. For 45 minutes we pause in the middle of all this activity and listen in the BSR to voices in different languages, both pupils and staff speaking in a darkened hushed auditorium lit by a single spotlight. The event celebrates the great diversity of the College population, and, appropriately, this year it was Pentecost, with its associations with speaking in many tongues.
 
On Sunday evening, a group of three foreign languages started us off, linked tenuously by their first letter. Chinese (Mandarin) was spoken musically by Coco Xu, and she was followed by Czech - Phoebe Landseer, with a piece by 1984 Nobel winner Jaroslav Seifert - and Catalan (Tomas Rosa Echevarria). The rhythm of the evening was that then we reverted to English for three poems: Mr Kirwan was at the event for the first time, reading Thomas Hardy, followed by two Second Formers: Lexi Hunter with 'Prayer' by Carol Ann Duffy and Elizabeth Coffey with ‘The Great Blasket Island’ by Julie O’Callaghan, which you can hear the poet herself read here.
 
Romance languages formed the next cluster: French from Hugo Laurenceau and Ebah Assebian, Spanish from Eugenia Garcia and Olivia Valderrama, and Italian from Anna Luisa Sanminiatelli. Back to English: Mr Swift read the ever-excellent and amusing Billy Collins's ‘Another Reason Why I Don’t Keep a Gun in the House’, followed by two more Second Formers, with both Jack-Francis McKeon (‘Earth Summit’ by Oliver Tearle) and James Breatnach (the famous ‘Lake Isle of Innisfree by W.B. Yeats) reading confidently.
 
An extremely eclectic group came next: Yoruba from Bibiire Oke-Osanyintolu, Irish from Naoise Murray, Ancient Greek from Edvard Zujest and Arabic from Anna-Cecilia Corti. You could hardly find languages with less in common, but all of them marked by a very different and beautiful music.
 
A First Former and the Warden followed: Harry Casey read his own work ‘Farewell’ and then the Warden recited one of the poems he learned years ago, Walter de la Mare’s dramatic and evocative ‘The Travellers’.
 
The final foreign-language group was from countries close to each other: German (Hannah Bergmann), Danish (Melina Paulsen), Ukrainian (Anhelina Khliebnykova) and Polish (Aleksander Kierski). The last of these was ‘Clouds’ by the 1996 Nobel Laureate, Wisława Szymborska, and Mr Girdham read out the English translation first.
 
The evening came to a close with Nikolai Foster representing Sixth Form and leavers with Berton Braley’s ‘The Will to Win’, some advice for those whose time at the school is not yet coming to an end. Then Mr McCarthy, whose time is, recited Langston Hughes’s ‘Life is Fine’.
We ended with Junior Poetry Prize winner Giacomo Borillo’s touching ‘The Beautiful Beach’, thinking of his grandfather who died a year ago. That reflective note was the right one on which to end, a recognition of how poetry can console us and express what truly matters to us.

Junior Poetry Prize 2023

Congratulations to First Former Giacomo Borillo, who won this year's Junior Poetry Prize, remembering his grandfather, who died a year ago.


The sun shines brightly on that beautiful beach.
The sand sweeps softly through the wind.
Its beauty spans as far as the eye can reach,
And all my woeful worries are left behind.

My grandfather’s hand is clutched in mine,
As we watch the whales pass us both.
I want that memory frozen in time,
But they say loss is just a part of growth.

How I wish I could that memory forever,
But I’m a world away from my wish.
And how I’d wish that world away,
Just to be back on that beautiful beach.

Wednesday, March 01, 2023

Senior Poetry Prize 2023

Entries for this year's Peter Dix Memorial Prize for Poetry are due by May 26th, handed in to Mr Canning. Entries should contain a portfolio of between two and five poems based on or inspired by the idea of one of - formative experiences / formative people / formative places. Full details are posted on a special notice around the school.

Monday, February 20, 2023

20 'Macbeth' video/audio annotations

 

Here's a renewal of the ShowMe analyses of key moments in Macbeth, now moved to a new location. Each is short (2/3 minutes).

Thursday, February 09, 2023

Swiss Army Knife quotations

 


A simple, low-preparation revision technique in classes.

Pupils should know quotations which have multiple uses, just like the famous knife. A good way to emphasise this in class is to choose one, and spend time ‘exploding’ it, getting as much out of it as possible, and interrogating every word. This is part of the process of thinking deeply about a text. It could be done in just 15 minutes.

Give out A3 sheets of blank paper (or if it’s a last minute decision just use the board, with pupils jotting down bullet points). Put the quotation in the middle (volunteered by a pupil, or chosen by the teacher). Then in pairs (ideally, but works with individuals) ‘interrogate’ the statement in a limited amount of time: say, 10 minutes.

Then come together as a class to share ideas, and get yet more out of the statement: put these ideas on the board/screen.

Above, an example from Lady Macbeth (PDF): the murder scene, Act II scene ii. A very simple and apparently banal statement which can reveal a lot. You can have a very rich discussion about the play based on it.

Questions could be asked in advance/afterwards, such as:

  • If you had to highlight one word only, what, and why?
  • Why does the character say this?
  • Does she believe it?
  • How is she similar or different to other characters?
  • How does this echo anything that has already been said/happened?
  • Can you connect anything later in the play to this?

Monday, January 16, 2023

Articles of the Week

This is an ongoing listing of links to the Articles of the Week used with our Leaving Certificate pupils, from September 2013 onwards.

The idea came from the American teacher and writer Kelly Gallagher, and it fits very well into the Leaving course, getting pupils used to reading interesting articles and thus helping them in both the comprehension and composition sections of their Paper 1, as well as expanding their knowledge base and vocabulary and providing interesting topics for discussion.

Click here for Gallagher's current articles, and read more about the theory behind the scheme in his excellent book Readicide: how schools are killing reading and what you can do about it. Pupils have to mark up the articles with annotations before class discussion.
  1. January 2023: 'Why winter walks at the seaside are good for you' by Nick Davies and Sean J. Gammon, The Conversation, January 13th 2023 [mental health].
  2. October 2022: 'There’s too much of everything. And it’s making us unhappy.’ by Seán Moncrieff, Irish Times, October 15th October 2022 [parenting, adolescence, consumerism].
  3. September 2022: 'A comeback for nuclear power' by The Week staff writers,  September 4th 2022 [nuclear power, economics, environment].
  4. September 2022: 'Why is our Government so happy to ignore the financial nightmare young people face?' by Gemma Haverty, Irish Times, August 30th 2022 [economics, society].
  5. April 2022: 'A year of hunger: how the Russia-Ukraine war is worsening climate-linked food shortages' by Nenad Naumovski, The Conversation (Australia), April 26th 2022 [war, economics, climate change].
  6. November 2021: 'The climate won’t wait. We need a carbon tax now
    The time for handwringing is definitively over
    ' by Tim Harford, Financial Times, October 29th 2021 [environment, climate change].
  7. September 2021: 'Leaks just exposed how toxic Facebook and Instagram are to teen girls and, well, everyone' by Siva Vaidhyanathan, The Guardian, September 18th 2021 [social media].
  8. September 2021: 'Narcissists: there's more than one type' by Nikhila Mahadevan, The Conversation, August 5th 2021 [psychology].
  9. May 2021: 'We must stop Covid shutting girls out of school forever' by Malala Yousafzai, Financial Times, April 29th 2021 [pandemic, education]
  10. May 2021: 'Sang culture: how a reluctant Russian singer became the hero of young pessimists across China' by Xiaoning Lu, The Conversation, April 30th 2021 [culture, internet, China].
  11. November 2020: 'Remembrance Day is an exercise in collective amnesia' by Samuel Earle, The Guardian, November 8th 2020 [history, politics, remembrance].
  12. October 2020: 'Is Donald Trump a bully or bold protector? That depends on whom you ask' by Arlie Hochschild, The Guardian, October 10th 2020 [politics, bullying].
  13. October 2020: 'To combat conspiracy theories teach critical thinking – and community' by Thomas Roulet, The Conversation, October 2nd 2020 [conspiracy, social media, education].
  14. September 2020: 'What can we learn about people from their social media?' by Gwendolyn Sideman, Psychology Today, September 21st 2020 [social media, psychology, behaviour].
  15. September 2020: 'Oxford scientists: these are the final steps we're taking to get our coronavirus vaccine approved' by Rebecca Ashfield and Pedro Folegatti, The Conversation, September 8th 2020 [science, vaccines]
  16. February 2020: 'Are First-Borns Really Natural Leaders?' by Clara Sabolova, The Conversation, February 7th [parenting, upbringing, nurture].
  17. January 2020: 'What moral authority does the US have to kill Suleimani?' by Breda O'Brien, The Irish Times, January 11th 2020 [morality, politics, conflict}.
  18. October 2019: 'A psychotherapist explains why some adults are reacting badly to young climate strikers' by Caroline Hickman, The Conversation, October 11th 2019 [climate change, teenagers].
  19. September 2019: 'Curiosity: we're studying the brain to help you harness it' by by Ashvanti Valji and Matthias Gruber, The Conversation, September 13th 2019 [neuroscience, learning].
  20. September 2019: 'A California high school found students' cellphones too distracting, so they're locking the devices up' by Safia Samee Ali, NBC News, August 21st 2019 [education, learning, teenagers, technology].
  21. May 2019: 'How Exercise Affects Our Memory' by Gretchen Reynolds, New York Times, May 1st 2019 [exercise, physiology, neuroscience].
  22. January 2019: 'Aviation is the red meat in the greenhouse gas sandwich' by John Gibbons, the Irish Times, January 29th 2019 [environment, aviation].
  23. January 2019: 'Filling the Silence with Digital Noise' by the Nielsen Norman Group, November 18th 2018 [technology, learning].
  24. November 2018: "Window for saving Earth from ecological annihilation closing" by John Gibbons, the Irish Times, October 16th 2018 [ecology, environment].
  25. October 2018: "'Fortnite' teaches the wrong lessons" by Nicholas Tampio, The Conversation, October 12th 2018 [gaming, adolescence, technology]/
  26. October 2018: "Why true horror movies are about more than things going bump in the night" by Aislinn Clarke, The Conversation [film, horror, comedy], October 3rd 2018.
  27. October 2018:  'Is Serena Williams right? A linguist on the extra challenges women face in moments of anger' by Kieran File, The Conversation, September 11th 2018 [women, gender, sport].
  28. September 2018: 'Why you should read this article slowly' by Joe Moran, The Guardian, September 14th 2018 [reading, internet].
  29. September 2018: 'The ideal school would put children's development before league tables' by Sue Roffey, The Conversation, September 17th 2018.
  30. September 2018: 'Another Angle: For the love of God, put down the phones' by Adrian Weckler, Irish Independent, August 20th 2018 [technology, phone].
  31. May 2018: 'Neuroscience is unlocking mysteries of the teenage brain' by Lucy Foulkes, The Conversation, April 23rd 2018 [adolescence, neuroscience].
  32. March 2018: 'The Tyranny of Convenience' by Tim Yu, New York Times, February 16th 2018 [modern life, technology].
  33. February 2018: "The death of reading is threatening the soul" by Philip Yancey, Washington Post, July 21st 2017 [reading, books, internet].
  34. January 2018: 'Why more men are wearing makeup than ever before' by Glen Jankowski, The Conversation, January 15th 2018 [make-up, masculinity].
  35. January 2018: 'Why 2017 was the best year in human history' by Nicholas Kristof, The New York Times, January 6, 2018 [history, progress, health].
  36. November 2017: 'Boys must behave if women are to be safe' by Fintan O'Toole, The Irish Times, October 31, 2017.
  37. October 2017: 'A giant insect ecosystem is collapsing due to humans' by Michael McCarthy, The Guardian, October 21, 2017.
  38. October 2017: 'We can't stop mass murder' by Shikha Dalmia, The Week, October 6, 2017.
  39. October 2017: 'What every teacher should know about ... memory' by Bradley Busch, The Guardian, October 6, 2017 [learning, memory, teaching].
  40. October 2017: 'Think the world is in a mess: here are 4 things you can do about it' by Alexandre Christoyannapoulos. The Conversation, November 16, 2016 [activism, citizenship, economics].
  41. September 2017: 'The power of silence in the smartphone age' by Erling Kagge, The Guardian, September 23rd 2017 [technology].
  42. September 2017: '5 reasons why people share fake photos during disasters' by A.J. Willingham, CNN.com, September 8th 2017 [journalism, psychology, social media].
  43. September 2017: 'Can you identify the psychopaths in your life?' by Rob Hastings, iNews, August 29th 2017 [psychology].
  44. February 2017: 'Our roads are choked. We're on the verge of carmageddon' by George Monbiot, The Guardian, September 20th 2016 [environment, transport].
  45. January 2017: 'Girls believe brilliance is a male trait' by Nicola Davis, The Guardian, January 27th 2017.
  46. January 2017: 'What do teenagers want? Potted plant parents' by Lisa Damour, New York Times, December 14th 2016 [adolescence, parenting].
  47. November 2016: 'Trump makes it easy to vote for Her' by Carl Hiaasen, Miami Herald, November 6th 2016 [politics, America].
  48. October 2016: 'How being alone may be the key to rest' by Claudia Hammond, BBC, September 27th 2016 [rest, reading, introversion].
  49. September 2016: 'Why Parents are Getting Angrier' by Nicola Skinner, The Guardian, September 3rd 2016 [parenting, psychology, childhood].
  50. September 2016: 'Burkini beach ban: must French Muslim women become invisible?' by Delphine Strauss, The Irish Times, August 22nd 2016 [culture, Islam, France].
  51. May 2016: 'How can Lidl sell jeans for £5.99?' by Gethin Chamberlain, The Guardian, March 13th 2016 [economics, retailing, manufacture].
  52. April 2016: 'Teaching men how to be emotionally honest' by Anrew Reiner, New York Times, April 4th 2016 [gender, adolescence, masculinity].
  53. February 2016: 'Then and now: how things have changed for teenage girls since the 1950s' by Clare Furniss, The Guardian, January 29th 2016 [teenagers, gender, sexism].
  54. January 2016: 'Teenagers risk being defined for life by their social media posts' by Karlin Lilllington, Irish Times, January 14th 2016 [social media, teenagers, identity].
  55. January 2016: 'Welcome to the Anthropocene, a new geological era for the world', The Week, January 8th 2016 [geology, climate change, environment].
  56. November 2015: 'Birth Order Determines ... Almost Nothing' by Jeanne Safer, psychologytoday.com [psychology, parenting, childhood].
  57. November 2015: 'How psychopaths can save your life' by Kevin Dutton, The Observer [psychology].
  58. November 2015: '10 benefits of reading: why you should read every day' by Lana Winter-Hebert, Lifehack.org [reading, entertainment, education].
  59. October 2015: 'How much can you really learn while you're asleep?' by Jordan Gaines Lewis, The Guardian, October 6th 2015 [neuroscience, learning, adolescence].
  60. September 2015: 'Fifth of secondary school pupils wake almost every night to use social media' by Sally Weale, The Guardian, September 15th 2015 [social media, learning, teenagers].