Politics, School Poetry, and Betjemen – Poetry News Roundup October 2nd

This week at My Poetic Side we begin with a story that once again combines poetry and politics, with an article about Boris Johnson, we also look at a schools poetry programme inspired by the landscape that inspired Seamus Heaney and we finish with the 13 year old winner of the Betjeman poetry prize.

Boris Puts His Foot in it!

Footage aired this weekend on Channel 4 shows the moment the Burma’s British Ambassador was forced to step in call a halt to Boris Johnson’s recitation of Mandalay by Rudyard Kipling.

The trip took place way back in January but this has only just emerged. Johnson was visiting Yangon’s Shwedagon Pagoda, the countries most well renowned sacred temple. When he began reciting the poem which is written from the point of view of a British serviceman who had retired and contains a reference to kissing a local girl. The country, which is also called Myanmar, is deeply affected by the colonial past it endured, and are still highly resentful, and the blunder was described as highly inappropriate. Minutes before Mr Johnson had started reciting the poem he has also referred to one of the golden statues in the temple as “a very big Guinea pig”.

This isn’t the first time Mr Johnson and poetry have committed a bit of a gaff in the international field. Before he became Foreign Secretary, he composed a rather insulting limerick about President Erdogan of Turkey.

Interactive School Poetry Programme

A year long programme aimed at KS3 pupils is being piloted in the area that inspired the poet Seamus Heaney. The programme is aimed to show pupils a selection of the local landscape, including trips to natural heritage sites and numerous activities within the Seamus Heaney HomePlace in Bellaghy.  The trips are varied and take in turf cutting, farming, Toner’s Bog and Church Island. It is hoped that the pupils will be inspired as Heaney was and produce their own poetry inspired by the things that inspired him.

The programme has been developed by the Lough Neagh Landscape Partnership. The funding has been given by the Heritage Lottery Fund in partnership with RSPB NI and Seamus Heaney HomePlace.

Whilst the pilot programme is only planned to run for one year it is hoped that it will be so popular, and produce fantastic results which may lead to its continuation.

Syrian Refugee Wins Betjeman Poetry Prize

On Thursday, as part of the National Poetry Day celebrations, 13-year-old Syrian refugee Aminaeh Abou Kerech, was awarded the 2017 Betjeman poetry prize; the competition is aimed at children aged 11 to 13.

Amineh, who was born in Syria 13 years ago only moved the UK last summer. Her poem, Lament for Syria, was written partly in Syrian and partly in English, her older sister helped to translate it into English; a language she has only recently learned. She has however been writing poetry since the age of nine, when her family were forced to flee to Egypt.

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