Sixth Form Poetry Club
During my second year on the ELCE course I volunteered to run an already established weekly poetry group with The Domino Project in Bristol, a charity supported by the university to help people get their lives back on track following alcohol or drug abuse.
I found it remarkable the profound impact that reading and discussing poetry can have on a person’s self-worth and this has shaped my own community engagement project.
My place of work seemed like the most convenient location for my project, but, given that I work in a grammar school where the students are already well-read (and arguably over-worked), I was worried that a poetry group might not appeal. However, I was reassured that the Community Engagement (CE) module is a study of our experiences (and possibly repeat attempts) setting up reading groups – the planning, approach and outcomes – rather than a measure of how ‘successful’ they are. So, I advertised my Poetry Society to sixth formers; a small group responded and we have been meeting every week for the last six months. I also run Performance Poetry sessions to younger students, bringing a fun, more physical element to poetry. During the school’s Reading Week, I organised a Poetry Café event, where staff and students signed up to perform poetry of their own choosing. A mountain of homemade cake was consumed and everyone had a great time enjoying a diverse programme of poetry and spoken word. We have been able to enjoy poetry in the way the poets intended – focussing on our feelings, rather correct poetic terms, or ‘answers’. I am certain that reading and discussing poetry has given us new perspectives on life, and we have become more confident as a result.
Although I was initially apprehensive about the CE element of the ELCE course, once I started the course it felt like a natural progression to lead a reading group of my own, and it has proved to be a hugely rewarding and truly life-changing for me. I am proud that my project has had such a positive impact on my community, and am grateful for the expertise, reassurance and encouragement of my tutors at the University of Bristol, which has helped to make it possible.