‘Nothing is so beautiful as Spring’ - Inspiration for JAGS poets from Hopkins and Jeremy Noel-Tod

Senior School English

The JAGS annual Poetry Festival wonderfully exposes raw and polished talent in the senior school and pupils’ skills in writing poetry in different forms. The product this year is a marvellous anthology of some 50 poems, spoken to an audience and the guest poet in an evening celebration. To work with these young poets from Y7-13 during the day, the English department surpassed itself, inviting a person who not only writes, but teaches, judges, reviews and edits too: Jeremy Noel-Tod, Senior Lecturer, School of Literature, Drama and Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia.  

“I felt very privileged to be able to take part in such an interesting and inspiring creative writing workshop, given by the poet and Senior Lecturer, Jeremy Noel-Tod. Mr Noel-Tod illustrated for us, with wonderful vibrancy, the different kinds of poetry, including limericks, haikus, sonnets and prose poetry and discussed with us the elements and styles of each. I really liked how he actively involved us in the conversations and was keen to hear our ideas and thoughts. The most fun part of the workshop was when we used iambic pentameter to write our own sonnets; one of my lines was ‘the contraband of lipstick’s unallowed’. We volunteered some of our lines and Mr Noel-Tod put them together to construct an amusing, quirky and creative poem entitled The School Day. Mr Noel-Tod’s visit was a delight for us all and has inspired me to explore different areas of poetry that I haven’t tried before.”

Daisy Simpson Y7

“After school, a large group of sixth-form English students, and a few Year 11s, congregated in the Year 13 common room for a talk from Jeremy Noel-Tod. He began by demonstrating to us the importance of poetic form by showing us a story from Taiwan, where President Tsai Ing-wen was harshly criticised for her ‘unorthodox’ spring couplets (a traditional form of poetry governed by strict rules). Having used Robert Frost and Frank O’Hara to separate poets into those who are ‘rope skippers’ and use structure in a traditional way, and those who are ‘runners’ and use an instinctive structure, he presented us with The Train by Paul Muldoon (born 1951) and Prayer by George Herbert (1593-1633) and asked us to examine their form. Clearly, these poets were born in very different ages, and belong to different poetic movements, but they both use a single sentence in the form of a sonnet to communicate something about the inconclusiveness of human experience. Jeremy Noel-Tod’s attention to form as an approach to poetry was refreshing, and will inform us all in our appreciation of verse.”

Olivia Horne Y13

The complete anthology, including Ballad of Wanda Whistler by Daisy and Mary-Moon-Mother by Olivia, can be found here. Well done to all the poets.

This year’s Foyle Young Poets Award had over 10,000 entries. The judges chose the top 15 winners and commended another 85. Congratulations to Riona Millar Y13, Lucy Olsen Y11 and Clarisse Wibault Y10, whose poems all made the top 8


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