I Am Looking For

Poetry Workshop and Competition for Bolton Schools

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On National Poetry Day, poet Andrew McMillan, in conjunction with Bolton School Boys’ Division, has launched a poetry workshop for children aged 11-18 years and their teachers and a subsequent competition for children aged 5-18 years across the borough. The competition will relate to the National Poetry Day theme of ‘Vision’. The award-winning poet said: “I’m excited to see what the brilliant minds of Bolton come up with for this challenge; poetry has a unique way of capturing the contemporary moment, of keeping a record of things we’ll look back on in years to come so others can learn about what living through this time was like. This is a chance for young people to put onto to the page how they have felt, how they have lived, what they’ve missed and what they’re hoping for, in these unprecedented times.”​ 

Andrew will run a free online workshop via Zoom on Wednesday 14th October from 7.00pm-8.30pm in which he will encourage young people to explore new ways of looking, seeing and imagining the world. Pupils and staff will be guided through new writing techniques to explore the world around us, from private spaces in the home, to local streets and the town at large. Activities will look back into history and look forward into the world we might want to build. 

The workshop is open to five pupils and two teachers from each setting - attendance must be as part of a school group. The session will include a reading, a poetry workshop and a Q&A session with Andrew McMillan. Competition support, via Padlet, is available after the event as part of the offer. 

Bookings for the workshop close on Monday 12 October and should be done through emailing: boltonpoetry@boltonschool.org where enquiries can also be made. 

After the workshop, the poetry writing competition for Bolton schools will launch and entrants will have a month to write their piece, which will be judged by Andrew McMillan. Entries must be submitted by Thursday 12 November and winners will be announced later that month. All entrants must pen an original poem, which should then be submitted by their school. Schools can submit multiple entries via the competition email address below. All entries must be accompanied by an entry form. It is not necessary to attend the workshop to enter the competition. 

The Secondary School challenge for 11-18 year olds asks entrants to write a poem with an unusual point of view; maybe your poem will look at things slightly askew, maybe it will be a poem from the point of view of an inanimate object, perhaps it will present a kaleidoscope of lots of different views at once. Try to surprise yourself with your approach - move away from the idea that a poem is just a poet looking at someone or something and describing it.

The Primary School challenge for children aged 5-10 years will ask girls and boys to think about something you see every day. You might think about something small such as your bedside lamp or a spoon in the kitchen cutlery draw or it might be something big like a particular tree at the end of your street or your school building. Now, imagine that one day, it vanishes. Try to write about the disappearance. Alternatively, you could write about something you would like to replace the item you select with.  

A winning entry and two runners-up will be selected in each category and they will be invited to tour the new Manchester Poetry Library in 2021. They will also receive book tokens to the value of £50 and £25. Winners will receive a collection of poetry books for their school library. Winning, running-up and highly commended entries will be published in digital and print Re-visioning Poetry anthologies. 

To register your setting, receive supporting resources and an entry form, email boltonpoetry@boltonschool.org.  

Andrew McMillan’s debut collection physical was the first ever poetry collection to win The Guardian First Book Award. The collection also won the Fenton Aldeburgh First Collection Prize, a Somerset Maugham Award (2016), an Eric Gregory Award (2016) and a Northern Writers’ award (2014). In 2019 it was voted as one of the top 25 poetry books of the past 25 years by the Booksellers Association. 

His second collection, playtime, was published by Jonathan Cape in 2018; it was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation for Autumn 2018, a Poetry Book of the Month in both The Observer and The Telegraph, a Poetry Book of the Year in The Sunday Times and won the inaugural Polari Prize. 

Andrew's latest collection, pandemonium, will be released in May 2021. He is senior lecturer at the Manchester Writing School at MMU and lives in Manchester.

* Andrew's photo comes courtesy of Urszula Soltys

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