Wednesday, 25 January 2017
Pupils in Years 8 and 9 had an inspiring afternoon with poet Mandy Coe. She visited the Girls’ Division to give two workshops to pupils, sparking their ideas and encouraging them to start writing. The sessions focused on how pupils feel about themselves and the strength of being a young woman.
Mandy’s workshops interspersed writing exercises with lovely readings of her own poetry, discussions about writing and topical issues, and questions from the group.
Mandy used poems to open up discussion. She brought up the powerful poem ‘I’ve Been Known’ by Denise Duhamel in connection to the very recent Women’s Marches that took place globally, and asked whether pupiled talked about current affairs. She also linked it to one of her own poems, from a point of view of a child in a warzone.
She also used poems as the basis for some of her writing exercises. After reading Lucille Clifton’s ‘Homage to my Hips’, Mandy asked pupils to come up with an ‘homage’ title of their own, using a part of their body that they feel is particularly strong, and asked the girls to share their ideas. She showed pupils ‘Van Gogh’s Yellow Chair’ by Mark Roper, and talked about how artwork can be used as inspiration in different ways. Throughout both sessions, the girls were encouraged to observe the world around them.
Throughout the workshops, Mandy was very impressed with pupils’ engagement and their focus on the writing tasks they were given. She was delighted with all of their varied ideas.
There was time for lots of questions and the girls were keen to quiz Mandy on poetry and writing.
When asked if it is hard to be a poet, Mandy said that although she used to think it’s hard, she realised that actually it’s easy. However she also added: “It’s much harder to be a good writer!”
In answering the girls’ questions, she talked about her sense of complete disbelief when she won the Manchester Prize, her writing inspiration from her mother and one of her school teachers, how she generates poetry ideas, and the length of time it takes her to write a poem. She was also able to pass on valuable writing advice to the aspiring poets in the audience, advising them to put their work away for a while in order to “see it with new eyes”.
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