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Forward Arts FoundationThe trouble at mill back at UK education HQ’s been widely publicized. Sweeping changes are afoot across the curriculum, and English will not escape.

One change that’s caught the attention of the Forward Arts Foundation is the new requirement for students to respond to unseen poetry during their English Literature examination. So, true to their name, the Forward Arts Foundation have acted proactively by providing schools with the Young Judges Competition.

Everyone’s a winner: teachers and students are supported by a competition that asks students to hone their close reading skills using the cream of the current crop of contemporary poetry. However, unlike the functional and potentially, although not inevitably, joyless examination response, this competition is also about style, about ‘vivid and perceptive writing,’ as Forward describe it. UK poetry wins too: a fresh audience encounters contemporary poetry beyond the confines of a syllabus.

It’s worked. A few of my students have read the competition anthology, responding with horror to the charnel house of Dan O’Brien’s War Reporter. Others were seduced by the brackish backwater of Sinéad Morrissey’s The Coal Jetty. I read Emily Berry’s The International Year of the Poem aloud to whole classes, listening with pleasure as their giggles turned into guffaws. In a world in which young adult fiction dominates the market, the Forward Arts Foundation has found a chink in the armour. Students are reading poetry and enjoying it. Job done.

There’s still time to enter the 2013 competition (closing date, 8th December).

All the information about the competition can be found here.

I’ve written about:

  • Hugo Williams’ The Art of Needling for the competition here (the poem can be read here)
  • Jean Sprackland’s Moving the Piano here (and the poem can be read here).