Book of the week: poems from Maharishi school

14th December 2001 at 00:00

Pupils from the Maharishi school in Lancashire have been scooping up all the major writing awards for young people for the past seven years. All the poems in Oranges: poems from Maharishi school (edited by Cliff Yates, foreword by Andrew Motion) have won major national awards, or have been featured in The TES Young Poet of the Week column.

The poems in this book are of an astonishingly high standard, regardless of the writers' age. Cliff Yates makes no secret of his methods: it's all in his book, Jumpstart Poetry in the Secondary School (Poetry Society pound;9.20, order on www.poetrysoc.com ). His approach is simple: he reads good contemporary poetry with his students, offers them opportunities to write, and values theirnbsp; work.

Nonetheless, the poems in this book have come a long way from their initial workshops or models. Even those that clearly derive from the same exercise have been redrafted and developed to a point where individual voices can be heard - at least two of the poets here are distinctive enough to warrant books of their own. This is where the difference is made between these pieces and poems produced in hundreds of one-off workshops with poets.

Re-drafting is a skill that everyone is required to teach, and poetry, often being under a page in length, should be ideal territory for practising this. But few teachers or pupils have the breadth of reading to know when a poem is made better by a particular adjustment, and the editing skills to know how to make those changes. Reading these entertaining and accessible poems, and looking at how far they have come from the models and exercises in Jumpstart , would go a long way to developing these areas.

Although Yates claims in his introduction that encouraging students to write poetry with the sole purpose of winning awards would be like teaching them to swim with weights tied to their ankles, he acknowledges that a structured system of rewards is important in his work. As great an incentive as a competition deadline is the lure of publication.nbsp;

Maharishi School Press pound;7.55 including pamp;p from Maharishi school, Cobbs Brow Lane, Latham, Ormskirk, Lancashire L4D 6JJ. Make cheques payable to New Beacon School

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