Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Voices of Poetry 2024

The long-standing Voices of Poetry event at the end of May provides a pause-point in the year. It is the last major event in the Big Schoolroom, and on a Sunday evening at the end of a busy weekend it gives us all a moment to listen attentively and appreciate great writing.

As always, it featured a mixture of English and other languages. It is remarkable how much one can get out of another language in terms of musicality even if the words are mysterious. Readers did give brief introductions to each of their pieces, and 23 poems were covered in 45 minutes, with Mr Girdham presenting and linking them.

Anton Demenko kicked things off in Ukrainian, followed by an utterly different language from a totally different part of the world: Bibiire Oke-Osanyintolu recited a poem in Yoruba from Nigeria.

The first English poem came from Eoin Siegel – Robert Frost’s famous ‘The Road Taken’, with its resonant final lines 

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.


On the thin grounds that both languages start with the letter ‘I’, but on the more substantial ones that they are both beautifully euphonious, Italian and Irish followed, with four poems intertwined and recited by Anna Luisa Sanminiatelli, Euan Flanagan, Francesco Malacarne and Molly Mann.

Shannon Walker Kinsella chose to read Cassandra Wright’s ‘Clandestine Meeting’, and she was followed by three ‘Iberian’ languages – Spanish (Pedro Olea), South American/Venezuelan Spanish (Manuela Nassief) and Portuguese (Kayra Mbanefo).

Congratulations to Nia Jessup, winner of this year’s Junior Poetry Prize for her touching poem ‘My Love’, about her grandmother, which she read out movingly.

Quite a jump then to one of the most unusual European languages, Hungarian (unconnected to any other, apart from, peculiarly, Finnish), from Gaspar Kekessy and Kasimir zu Bentheim.

And another jump to Mr Swift, who marked his interest in golf by reading out John Updike’s tribute to Payne Stewart, who came to a tragic end in 1999 at the age of 42.

Neighbouring France and Germany came next, with poems read out by Olivia Borbath and Vito Wieser, followed by two major languages from further afield, Arabic (Cecilia Corti) and Mandarin Chinese (Merida Zhang).

English rounded things up: Hal Somerville recited Byron’s dramatic ‘The Destruction of Sennacherib‘ from 1815, followed by the Warden again impressively performing one of his many learnt-poems, Rudyard Kipling’s classic ‘If’. Finally, the awarding of the Peter Dix Memorial Prize for Poetry was marked by the Sub-Warden reading out one of Isabella Treacy’s winning poems from her portfolio. Congratulations to her on winning the prize for three years in a row.

As Mr Girdham said at the end, there is nothing better than catching up with some reading in whatever areas pupils like best. And why not some poetry?

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