The SPL is delighted to announce the winner of Poetry by Heart Scotland 2017 is Dominic Bogle, a S6 student St Columba's in Kilmacolm, Renfrewshire. Poetry by Heart Scotland, a competition run by the SPL, encourages high school students to learn poems and to recite them before an audience. This is the third year we’ve run PBHS. The competition is structured as a series of regional heats, culminating in a final at the National Galleries of Scotland. Learning and performing a poem improves confidence and memory, while participation in PBHS introduces under-18s to Scotland’s vibrant spoken word scene, giving them the chance to engage with and receive performance tips from professionals.
This year’s final was held on March 18, with seven finalists participating. They came from around Scotland: the Kaimes School, Fettes College, St Columba's, Dalziel High School, Albyn School, and Bishopbriggs Academy (who had two students in the final). The judges were the poets John Glenday, Jane McKie and Samuel Tongue (whose poem ‘What is it Like to be a Herring Gull’ is featured in our latest edition of our annual online anthology Best Scottish Poems). Jenny Lindsay, the poet and host of poetry cabaret Flint & Pitch, was compère.
The final began with a performance of Adrienne Rich’s poem ‘At Majority’ by PBHS’s organizer and poet Marjorie Lotfi Gill to set the tone. Jenny Lindsay introduced each recitation, giving the audience background on the upcoming finalist and the poem they were performing. After each finalist had performed both their poems, the judges excused themselves to deliberate amongst themselves who should be the winner. During the break, Jenny performed a set of her own poems, and read from a selection of work by contemporary poets.
To kick off the second part of the final, John Glenday gave a recitation of a poem he heard regularly as a boy before he knew how to read, explaining that poetry was something he heard and internalized before he'd ever read it. He explained why memorizing and reciting poetry has been important to him as a person and as a writer. ‘I could say something about how by memorizing a poem, it gets absorbed into our bloodstream, our DNA, and that’s why it’s called learning a poem by heart. Because poetry is all about humanity; memorizing a poem makes us more human, and more humane.’ He added, ‘Poetry is the only art form where you can possess the original simply by remembering it.’
Before the winner and runner up were announced, the judges gave feedback to each of the students on what they felt they'd done particularly well. Sam Tongue recited ‘The Bright Field’ by R.S. Thomas before the winners were announced by Jane McKie. Dominic Bogle won on the basis of his performances of ‘My brain swims empty and light’ by Robert Louis Stevenson and ‘A Life in Dreams’ by Jacob Sam La-Rose. The runner-up, Orla Chambers, is an S5 student at Dalziel High School; she performed ‘A Blockhead’ by Amy Lowell and ‘Aunt Julia’ by Norman MacCaig.
The SPL would like to thank each of the schools and their pupils who participated in the heats and the finals, as well as the judges, Sam Tongue, Jane McKie and John Glenday; Jenny Lindsay for hosting; and Marjorie Lotfi Gill for organizing the the competition. We’d also like to thank our former colleague Georgi Gill, who was instrumental in setting up PBHS and organizing the first two years of the competition, as well as playing a vital role in initiating its third year. Georgi recently moved on from the SPL and we miss her humour, dedication and integrity.