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Thursday, October 8, 1998 Published at 00:31 GMT 01:31 UK


School for winning poets

Griff Rhys Jones presents The Nation's Favourite Comic Poem

Four young poets who won a National Poetry Day competition come from the same school.

And meditation it appears is the source of their inspiration.

They all come from the private Maharishi School for the Age of Enlightenment in Skelmersdale, Lancashire.

Three of them are even from the same family - and their poetry teacher is their father, a poet himself.

The four - Luke, Ruth and Thomas Yates, and Penelope Buswell were among 13 winners chosen from 2,000 entrants for the first Simon Elvin Prize for the young poets of the year in a competition organised by the Poetry Society.

Their teacher, the school's deputy head, Cliff Yates, said: "I've been teaching my own kids poetry since they started school, and they have attended my poetry workshops.

"The school has a national reputation for teaching poetry now. The main difference in my classes is that I write poetry, and teach the children from that basis."

'Relaxed and alert'

Mr Yates believes the school's training in meditation helps pupils, too.

"The children are more relaxed and alert in the classroom. You can teach poetry to any group of children, but some are more receptive than others."

His son Luke, 14, wrote a poem about getting thirsty in his English class. Ruth, 12, addressed her verse to a donkey. Her brother Thomas, 17, wrote about a seahorse. Penelope Buswell's poem was about writing poetry.

Although the judges, Don Paterson and Jo Shapcott, did not know where the entries were from, the Poetry Society is not entirely surprised at the turn of events. They have asked Mr Yates to write a book about his teaching methods for secondary schools.

"This is the school to go to if you want to be a poet," said the Poetry Society's Education Officer, Sian Hughes.

The other winners were:

  • Shamima Begum from Mile End, east London
  • Bridget Collins from Tunbridge Wells, Kent
  • Hannah Griffiths from Kidderminster
  • Emily Haworth-Booth from Wandsworth, south London
  • Daisy Hirst and Rosamond Joseph from London
  • Elizabeth Manuel from Bristol
  • Helen Mort from Chesterfield
  • Matthew Paskins from London.

BBC vote

The BBC has been doing its bit to mark the day by inviting people to vote for the nation's favourite poem - this year's theme being comic poetry.

The result is to be announced by TV comic Gryff Rhys Jones on BBC One at 10.20pm on Friday - the day after poetry day - along with the winners of a competition to write a limerick.

The Guyanese-born poet John Agard has had his position as BBC poet-in-residence renewed for another six months until the end of the year.

He was appointed to coincide with the BBC's Windrush season celebrating 50 years of Caribbean immigration to Britain.

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