Maryan Stuns at Poetry by Heart Competition 2015

Maryan Stuns at Poetry by Heart Competition 2015

At the end of March, Y12 student Maryan Ishaq attended the Poetry by Heart national finals at Homerton College, Cambridge. This concluded a journey that began six months ago with Barnhill's own school contest. After her first victory here, Maryan went on to win the second stage of the competition in Hounslow in January, when she was chosen to represent West London at the national level.

Over the national finals weekend, 43 students recited three poems each to a crowded auditorium. During breaks in the two-day competition, they were also taken on a walking tour of Cambridge, had a formal dinner at Homerton College with the principal Geoff Ward, and had their pick of creative writing workshops, a university admissions talk and guided relaxation sessions. Several participants were recorded for BBC Radio Four’s Poetry Please request show.

The panels were chaired by Sir Andrew Motion and Jean Sprackland, with judging help from poets and academics Daljit Nagra, Patience Agbabi, Jo Shapcott, Tim Dee and Catherine Robson. It was certainly an illustrious bunch, but they were equally awed by the contestants' performances. Maryan had chosen three beautiful and difficult poems: Walt Whitman's 'A Dirge for Two Veterans', Francis Ledwidge's 'The Dead Kings' and David Jones's 'A, a, a, Domine Deus'. She performed each with elegance and courage. Although not selected to compete in the final round, Maryan was so proud of her work (as were we).

Sir Andrew Motion, shaking Maryan's hand after the final, remarked on the superior strength of the London finalists, and how difficult it had been to choose between them. He said to her, "you absolutely must come back next year". Needless to say, that pleased us both!

I am sure we'll all enjoy another school contest next year: Maryan has already offered to help recruit the next generation of contenders! In the meantime, congratulations to Maryan on her job very, very well done.

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