Saturday, 19 March 2016

Poetry Gala at Lawnswood School

Richard Wilcocks writes:

John Siddique
The acoustics are fine in the drama studio at Lawnswood School, so microphones were unnecessary, and the audience of parents, staff and visitors was rapt as the young poets, most of them from Year Nine, read from their work, introduced by teacher Sarah Davies. To mention some really special contributions: Wisdom's Addictions and The Ghetto showed impressive sophistication, Ola's Identity and Prejudice were cleverly emotive, Simran and Jess's Looking in the Mirror and Immobilised gave them an opportunity to perform a well-rehearsed double-act, Rupo's Inside and Looking Beyond were brisk and well-honed, Owen with his violin showed that he has the makings of a maestro and Torin was amazing.

Torin, who is in the Sixth Form, overcame her nerves to deliver her two stanza poem The Mountain in three languages, all of which she speaks fluently - English, Danish and Kurdish. Born in Denmark of Kurdish parents, she came to the UK a couple of years ago and is thriving at Lawnswood. She told me that her favourite poem is To His Coy Mistress by Andrew Marvell, which she has studied for A Level English Literature. She received the loudest applause of the evening.

Guest poet John Siddique also charmed the audience, which joined in his reading by repeating lines from one of his children's poems. "Poetry is the art of noticing," he asserted. He is very wary of publishers who choose book covers for their authors (most of them) and he is proud that one of his poems - about love and sincerity - was apparently banned in Russia (in translation) after it was handed out in photocopied form by supporters of the controversial Pussy Riot protestors, who were imprisoned for dancing in a Moscow cathedral. 

His most moving poems came towards the end - for example one about his eighty-four year-old mother. "I worry about her every time I see her," he told us. "She never hugged us once we'd stopped being small." the poem deals with an emotional meeting during which he massaged moisturiser into the palm of her hand. He finished his reading with a poem about a walk through Manchester, in which he notices the sounds and music of other cultures - Romanian, African and French - that he encounters. He hears the music of the kora (West African stringed instrument) and an accordion, and befriends a woman called Maria, who plays the same three chords in the street over and over again. "We would not have had the poetry we had tonight if it hadn't been for the most natural thing on the planet, migration," he told us. "Just look around the room."

In a series of workshops preceding the Poetry Gala, John had given guidelines for private writing and plenty of general advice, like "Be vulnerable. Run ahead of your own ego." He led creative writing sessions (poems which are lists, poems about things which people carry around with them, poems about the place where you grew up, for example) and read out one or two of his personal favourites - like extracts from Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass, Flowers in May by D H Lawrence and somewhere i have never travelled by e e cummings. Some of the poems read by the students in the course of the evening were the result of the workshops, some were not and some are still being worked upon.

Audience Comments
Wonderful opportunity for our students to work with John. Fabulous performances and great to hear the context behind the poems. Shame it wasn't better attended. (Head Teacher)

Wonderful event. A lovely end to a challenging day. Uplifting and thought provoking. Thank you.

Inspiring! Great to hear the young poets (illegible section) and musician.

John Siddique quite amazing - remarkable poetry (illegible section) Many thanks!

Some powerful readings from pupils and excellent poems from John Siddique. Very enjoyable for a poetry 'newbie' and maths teacher

It was great, poetry was powerful. I loved the violin playing.

Fantastic event! Great way to get children involved in learning. The poetry reading was super and the children did great! Really enjoyed the evening. Thank you.

Inspiring, beautiful work.

It's very nice. It's really nice evening. Thank you so much for all of you.

I really enjoyed the close knit setting of the place - it felt like a conversation not a presentation. John Siddique breaking/halting his poems to talk about the background and experiences of his poems. Torin reading her poem in Danish - it sounded so beautiful. Owen - his involvement in the music

The guy playing the music so well was really impressive.

Great stuff. Needed more student poetry and some info/background from John perhaps on the provenance of the pieces

I really enjoyed all the performances it was beautiful.

Excellent to hear students reading deep and meaningful poetry that they have written. John Siddique - excellent.

A dozen poems but one very strong theme - angst, worry (illegible). How well these youngsters express themselves and good they have an opportunity to be able to express their darker feelings through such personal poetry.

A lovely opportunity to explore their own writing skills and perform to an audience. Who knows where it may lead?

Lovely to include music in the poetry showcase.

Good to hear John Siddique (illegible) read some of his own work. What a chance for the young people in the audience!


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