Nottingham Poetry Festival 2020: Panel discussion in defence of poetry

The Nottingham Poetry Festival has returned, but this time it has been delivered online and all events are free of charge. Different workshops, performances and talks are held by local and international poets from 13 to 22 November.

All these events aim to bring together poetry enthusiasts for sharing their opinions, discussing important topics in the industry and encouraging people to unleash their creativity.

An important subject this year was the Government’s decision to make poetry optional for GCSEs. I attended a panel discussion called “In Defence of Poetry”, where poetry and education specialists were gathered together to debate on the subject whether poetry is an essential part of the curriculum.

The meeting was hosted by John Berkavitch, who invited guest speakers Panya Banjoko, Jess Tickell, Casey Bailey, Keith Jarrett and Grace Balchin. All speakers had their say about the matter, something they’re all very familiar with.

The panelists all agreed that GCSE poetry should not be dropped, and that the arts in general is not something schools should cut corners from. Grace Balchin – who teaches poetry to teenagers – said that it helps their emotional development and encourages them to be creative. She added that artistic subjects can provide an opportunity for students to express themselves, when they may not have a chance to do so anywhere else.

Casey Bailey – a writer, educator and performer – brought attention to the way poetry is taught in schools and the tedious and non-diverse content that is presented to students. He said that poetry isn’t about learning facts and should be opened up for more interpretation. He made a brilliant point, saying that if poetry is removed from the curriculum, then there is a chance that it will become something that is only for the privileged, who have the time and means to access and learn about it.

The panellists also listed the benefits and power of poetry for people’s wellbeing, especially their mental health. The right poem at the right time can change someone’s life, give them hope and strength to carry on or help them see certain things in different light.

The discussion was very interesting, the speakers were well chosen, the audience were interacting with the debate and everything was very efficiently organised. Even though I don’t consider myself as a huge fan of poetry, it definitely made me more curious and encouraged me to read some of the book recommendations they offered. If anyone is still considering taking part of the festival, then now is the last chance as the final events take place this weekend.   

I think that there is no better time to give poetry a try than right now, when a lot of people are struggling with their mental health and cannot pursue their usual hobbies. A lot of people think poetry is not their cup of tea, but the reason for that may be that they just haven’t come across poems that speak to them and have only read dull poetry that was introduced to them at school.

The Nottingham Poetry Festival concludes this Sunday 22 November. For more information, find out here.

By Kirke Viira

Feature image: Visit Nottinghamshire

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