Image by Duncan Brown shared under a Creative Commons Licence available at flickr.com
There’s a certain Burns in the air: haggises are being addressed; even the most sombrely attired people are adding a dash of tartan to their outfits; and most importantly poems are being learned and spoken aloud to the glee of performers and audiences alike.
Learning poetry by heart and performing it to an audience, has come back into vogue in recent years, and with very good reason. Recent research by the neuroscientist Iain McGilchrist suggests that when you learn a poem, you experience it differently. The learned poem is no longer just text on a page but, to your brain, it is a living being, a new acquaintance with whom you form intimacy and trust. Good for the brain but also good for the soul.
This week I’ve had the pleasure of being involved in poetry learning and performing at both primary and secondary school level – all the way from P1 to S6. This morning, I was honoured to be a judge at Liberton Primary’s Scots Assemblies. There is such Scots talent and appetite at Liberton Primary that they have two competitions, Infants (P1-3) and Juniors (P4-7). In addition to singing, dancing and playing instruments, the pupils performed a lively mix of contemporary and traditional Scots verse. Every class was represented and every pupil did themselves proud. Along with my fellow judges, we had to make some tricky choices between excellent performances to declare first and second places for each year group. However, each assembly could only have one winner of the coveted Scots trophies. Fraser of P7B won with his spirited and warm performance of ‘Boggin Beasties’ by Gregor Steele and Jac-Lev of P2A won for her confident and lively delivery of ‘The Snawman’ by J K Annand. Hearty congratulations to Fraser and Jac-Lev!
For secondary students, I’ve been involved in setting up regional heats for Poetry By Heart Scotland, the SPL’s new challenge to students in S4-6. Before Christmas, schools up and down the land celebrated poetry learning and performance by holding heats for students who wanted to test their recitation skills. They’ve been choosing poems from our specially selected databases of traditional and modern verse which include works in English, Scots and Gaelic. School winners are now polishing their performances in readiness for the regional heats where they will battle it out to decide who competes at the national finals in Edinburgh on 28th March. Best of luck to all students participating in the heats!
However you’re marking Burns Night this year, we have poems to help it go with a swing: why not have a look at our Burns poems or, for something less traditional, check out our Poetry By Heart tags – every poem has been chosen with performance in mind.Poems for the hert as weel as the heid
Georgi Gill, Learning Manager