High school poetry students well versed for a visit by master poet Simon Armitage

GCSE stalwart Simon Armitage paid a visit to Whitley Bay High School yesterday in a special event

Poet Simon Armitage, who made a visit to Whitley Bay High School to talk to pupils
Poet Simon Armitage, who made a visit to Whitley Bay High School to talk to pupils

High school poets got the chance to read their work before a master of the form.

Pupils at Whitley Bay High School shared their early efforts with GCSE stalwart Simon Armitage at a special event yesterday.

The poet and novelist gave readings of his own work and led a Q&A session before sitting down to chat with pupils and hear their verse.

He said: “Students at this age keep you on their toes. They ask incisive questions and they sometimes ask those blunt questions that you’ve forgotten the answers to – like ‘why do you do this?’ and ‘is poetry any use?’ It will take you back to your fundamentals.

“They come into the poems because they’re expected to write about them for their exams, so it’s all couched within an educational framework. I think a day like today is a chance to step outside that a little bit and remind people that poems weren’t necessarily written with the idea of appearing on exam boards.”

Mr Armitage, who lectures at Leeds University and translated medieval Cheshire epic Gawain and the Green Knight into modern English, praised the pupils’ work and said poetry from the North is better represented than 20 years ago.

He said: “I know Newcastle pretty well, but I don’t really know the outlying areas. That’s always part of the adventure – just setting off on the train in the morning not really sure where you’re heading for.

“I was going to head on the Metro but then I lost my nerve – or my map. I didn’t really know where I was going. I thought I’d probably end up in Sunderland.”

Library manager Gareth Ellis said: “This was a really good experience or the students. It shows them that these things called poets are actually living, breathing human beings, and maybe gives them the incentive to pick up a pen as well.

“It’s fascinating to them for actually put a face to someone who wrote poems they read and regularly study – too often, literary figures, poets, are these distant people and you don’t hear and see them.

“The work the students write always astonishes me. They are so mature, so talented, and the confidence to actually stand up and read to such an established and studied figure as Simon Arbitrage was remarkable.”

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