On Tuesday, 28th February, a group of nervous students- and their even more nervous parents and teachers- gathered in the august setting of Glasgow University for the Glasgow and North Lanarkshire heat of the Scottish Poetry Library’s annual Poetry by Heart competition.
The schools represented were The High School of Glasgow, Hutchesons’ Grammar School, St. Columba’s High School and Motherwell’s own Dalziel High School.
Dalziel’s champions were Orfhlaith King and Orla Chambers, both from S5, and each student had learnt- by heart, of course, as the competition title suggests!- two poems, which had to be chosen from an extensive selection sourced from the Scottish Poetry Library and its English equivalent, with one to be pre-1914 and the other post that date.
The competition is a relatively new one, having only started in 2015, and this was the first time Dalziel had entered, answering the call of none other than Liz Lochhead, once Scottish Makar and, of course, a distinguished ex-pupil of the school. The purpose behind the competition is to encourage not just the reading of poetry as it lies on the page, but also its spoken performance, allowing students to immerse themselves in the power of words, and enabling the poems to come to life.
Orfhlaith King chose The Witch by Mary Elizabeth Coleridge, and Originally, by Carol Ann Duffy, and she gave a performance full of warmth and spirit. Orla Chambers’ selection was A Blockhead, by Amy Lowell, and Aunt Julia, by Norman MacCaig, and her interpretation of these poems was highly accomplished, being witty, powerful and tender by turns.
The standard of the competition was extremely high, with the students from the other schools also giving excellent performances of their chosen pieces, and so it was with a great sense of pride that we learned that Orla Chambers had been chosen as one of two students to proceed to the final of the competition, which will be held soon at the National Gallery of Scotland in Edinburgh.
The teachers involved in coaching and encouraging the students, Mrs Lawrie and Mr Purvis were, of course, delighted with the girls’ performances, and will be there to cheer Orla on in Edinburgh.