There was a story in the Sunday papers this week that caught my eye. The BBC is organising ‘Off by Heart’, a national poetry recital contest for primary school pupils. Every primary school in the UK can enter a child aged 7 - 11 to compete for the title of UK Poetry Recital Champion. This, it seemed to me when I read it, is a Good Thing. It took me back to my own childhood, way back in the middle of the last century, when learning poems by heart was something kids were expected to do. I’d like to claim I can still recite all the poems that I learnt, but I can’t. But I can still remember quite a lot of quite a few.
Then, last night, I attended the inaugural meeting of the new committee elected to run my writer’s group, Deal Writers. Until last week, I was Chair of the previous committee and last night the new Chair presented me with a ‘leaving gift’ – a bottle of Scotch and a rather wonderful book of poetry. Poem for the Day Two contains 366 poems set out by date, so that for every day of the year there’s a different poem to learn off by heart. Spooky, or what?
So this morning saw me searching through my recycling bin for the Sunday Times review section that carried the story about ‘Off by Heart’, because contained within it were some very helpful tips for learning verse. For anyone interested, you can find the tips here, at the end of the very article by Daisy Goodwin.
My poem for today is First Lesson by the American poet Philip Booth. Maybe when I’ve learnt it I should think about trying to learn a few of my own poems by heart!