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
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
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).
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!
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.