Young Poets’ Stories is a new research project led by Associate Professor of Education Dr Sue Dymoke at NTU, working alongside Dr Anthony Wilson at the University of Exeter. It explores the development stories of a group of young poets who have been award-winning and highly commended entrants in The Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award, a well established, international competition run by The Poetry Society that has been running for 20 years for 11 – 17 year old writers.
Young Poets’ Stories is funded by The Foyle Foundation with support from Nottingham Trent University and the University of Exeter. During the next two years we are investigating a rarely explored aspect of poetry writing development: the potential impact of mentoring opportunities on young poets (aged 11 – 30) who were award-winning and/or highly commended entrants in The Foyle Young Poets of the Year 2012-2019.
We have worked together previously on several key poetry research projects which investigate poetry writing development where poetry happens, and explore the challenges of teaching and learning poetry – for example Making Poetry Happen: Transforming the Poetry Classroom. In researching over many years, we have become increasingly interested in how young poets can become part of a writing community or make a community of their own. This issue is explored in our theoretical paper Towards a model of poetry writing development as a socially contextualised process. The results of this work inspired us to explore how young poets develop as writers and draw on the support of others in the writing community.
We would like to capture the development of these young Foyle poets in the early stages of their writing, after success in the competition, and plan to do so through interviews and discussions of examples of the poets’ writing with thirty young poets along with observations of a separate group of poets and their experienced poet mentors. We want to write a series of case studies and web-based resources which will add to what is known about poetry writing theory and the practice of mentoring young writers. Ultimately, we hope that this work will encourage young writers to reflect on their work and the impact of mentoring practices used to support the development of their creative writing and that it will lead to new developments in poetry mentoring for the benefit of all young writers.
Recruitment of participants for the project is now open. If the description of award-winning and/or highly commended entrant in The Foyle Young Poets of the Year 2012-2019 applies to students you have taught, members of your family or indeed to you, then please read the Call for Young Poet Participants, register your interest, and spread the word (if the young poet is under 18 then a parent or carer will need to apply for them).
We are being guided in our work by an Advisory Board of experienced teachers, poets, researchers and workshop leaders from across the UK. At our first online Advisory Board meeting in late April we were able to draw on their expertise and we are very grateful for their contribution to this project.
Young Poets’ Stories is the starting point for a much larger scale piece of work and we hope that new understandings gleaned from our research will directly benefit young writers everywhere, including the many young people who might still be unaware of the significant opportunities that the Foyle Young Poets Award could offer them. The opportunity to develop a voice and to explore ideas through language is a vital one which should be afforded to all young people. Audre Lorde wrote of poetry’s importance for women:
poetry is not a luxury. It is a vital necessity of our existence … Poetry is the way we help give name to the nameless so that it can be thought (1977, available in Poetry and Cultural Studies, edited by Damon and Livingston).
What she wrote is true now more than ever, especially for young people in these challenging times.