While appreciating poetry may seem like a pursuit only confined to intellectuals or English fanatics, GCSE Poetry Live!, an event that takes place nationally,may prove otherwise to many.

On the 29th of November 2019, I went to the GCSE Poetry Live! Event along with my school, which took place in the Apollo Victoria Theatre in London. Despite the event,rather amusingly, taking place against the backdrop of the musical “Wicked”, it was a lovely day spent listening and discussing poems, read by a number of esteemed poets,lending their own works a personal feel that couldn’t be made up for in a classroom environment.While we were given “Examiner Sessions” designed to boost our knowledge,I feel the event focused more on a cohesive appreciation for poetry. What was particularly nice to see was the range of cultures and issues highlighted through poetry,reflective of not only the diverse society we live in but the liberal education system we are offered. For instance, Carol Ann Duffy’s poem “Valentine”, which I had previously not come across before, played with the idea of stereotypes; rejecting “red roses” and “satin hearts”, it instead talks of an onion as a symbolisation of love. Another favourite of mine was “Singh Song” a joyous and rather cheeky  poem,heightened by Daljit Nagra’s animated narration at the time, that represents first generation Indian immigrants;the poem portrays the Indian accent in a humorous manner but perhaps also manages to also shed light on people’s nonsensical aversion to accents when they are in fact “an assertion of one’s identity” as Nagra stated. Other themes included homosexuality, war-particularly how soldiers struggle with PTSD as poignantly depicted in “Remains” by Simon Armitage and how one can avoid conflict as explored in Imtiaz Dharker’s poem “Tissue” . Yet another one that proved particularly popular among the audience was John Agard’s “Half-caste” ; a poem riddled with sarcasm that focuses on the difficulties mixed race people may face.

Whether written in the style of rap as Grace Nichols did or in a more conventional form, whether written in a serious tone or a light-hearted one, poetry has the ability to resonate with all of us as it toys with our emotions and experiences in a discreet yet thought-provoking manner.Poetry Live! most definitely proved the power of words and left me with a feeling of anticipation for the weekend as I will continue to delve into the certainly deep, often daring and always dazzling realm of poetry. Moreover, I would most certainly recommend this event to others; it not only provides useful insights into poems needed for GCSE,it is also fun with plenty of the students in the theatre whooping and clapping several times at particularly exciting moments, as well as stimulating in that it furthers one’s understanding of poetry beyond the GCSE curriculum.

Lavanya Singh