Prose, poetry and coursework in the English department

By David Anson, Head of English

It is a busy season for the English Department; 6.2s have been beavering away at a very important piece of coursework and the Block 5s are working towards the final hand-in of their coursework folder. Nevertheless, we have found the time for some superb enrichment. On Tuesday 15 November we had the pleasure of welcoming two visiting writers. Our first was acclaimed children’s author Jon Robinson who joined us to be our annual writer in residence. Jon’s Nowhere trilogy is highly acclaimed and has been awarded a number of notable prizes as well as receiving a nomination for the Carnegie Medal in 2014. Jon spent the morning with our colleagues at Dunhurst helping young writers in Block 2 and then in the afternoon Jon worked with 6.1 students who are taking the creative enrichment course – this year run by Jen Moore. Jon’s one-to-ones were extremely valuable and year on year we find this attention generates the most astonishing creative writing – look out for the 2017 ‘Poet’s Stone’ and our creative writing celebration in the Spring term.

In the evening we had the treat of poet, playwright, novelist and critic Glyn Maxwell reading in the Olivier Theatre as part of the Bedales Poetry Series. Glyn has won some significant awards for his work over the years and has extensively edited the work of Derek Walcott who is a particular favorite of mine. It was really quite special to hear both his poetry and prose being read in the theatre. Glyn had supper with some of our Sixth Form English Literature students at 50 Church Road beforehand; something we try to arrange every year. Our students had a rare opportunity to ask some very candid and insightful questions of a writer at the peak of his career.

Literature, music and freedom of expression

My assembly on 16 November celebrated the very rich history of creative writing we have here at Bedales. We have over 400 published works in the Library which is pretty impressive for a school that has, until fairly recently, been of a modest size. In the wake of the terrible atrocities in Paris on Friday 13 November, I was concerned about the seeming frivolity and privilege of the writing of poetry or short stories, but our passion for art, literature and music are also under attack and it is this freedom of expression, amongst many other things, that I hope we value and want to protect.

The assembly began with a very moving piece of music written and performed by Delilah Montagu in 6.2 in response to the Paris attacks, she was joined by Caleb Curtis on cello and Alia Mehta on vocals. We have many impressive writers who are very well known; John Wyndham, Harriet Lane, Kate Summerscale and Thom Gunn to mention a few, but who were all represented through readings by staff and students. We also had extracts read out from younger students of yesteryear who contributed to various Bedales publications as far back as the 1920s; Lucas Closs in 6.2 read a rather amusing piece on The Cow by an anonymous boy who narrates an unfortunate encounter of the bovine variety which ends somewhat bathetically in a ditch. We then had a number of brave souls, Becky Grubb, Aidan Hall and Sam Headon who all volunteered to read from their own work; impressive it was too.

The assembly ended with a piece by Joan Billson who was here in 1927 and at the age of 15 wrote a rather stirring and evocative piece called Cutting Class in March which speaks of a yearning for the great outdoors that we are blessed with here in Steep and which, I feel, underlines a spirit of liberty and freedom that our own creative writing can so perfectly express.

By David Anson, Head of English

Poetry Society explore feminism and Mexico

Last Monday evening, 15 Sixth Formers met at Keith’s house for the first Poetry Society gathering of the Autumn Term. Two themes were decided on prior to the meeting and the sole requirement was to bring a poem of one’s choice fitting the theme of either ‘feminism’ or ‘Mexico’. ‘Feminism’ because it happened to be the date of one of the first large suffrage protests which happened in Holland in 1913 and ‘Mexico’ because 16 September is the nation’s Independence Day. From this the group managed to create an interesting compilation of the classic poets as well as some of the lesser known or more recent. This collection included the likes of Seamus Heaney from Keith as well as Carol Ann Duffy, Christopher Logue, Hollie McNish and the American feminist poet June Jordan amongst others. The contents varied from the thought provoking to the controversial and resulted in a thoroughly relaxed and enjoyable evening for all.

By Jenna Sajous, 6.2

*************************************************************************************************

Bedales School is one of the UK’s top independent private co-education boarding schools. Bedales comprises three schools situated in Steep, near Petersfield, Hampshire: Dunannie (ages 3–8), Dunhurst (ages 8–13) and Bedales itself (ages 13–18). Established in 1893 Bedales School puts emphasis on the Arts, Sciences, voluntary service, pastoral care, and listening to students’ views. Bedales is acclaimed for its drama, theatre, art and music. The Headmaster is Keith Budge.

Artistry and enthusiasm at poetry evening

Before I went to the Bedales Poetry evening in the Southerington Barn on 17 May, I wasn’t quite sure what a yum-yum was, but now I know that they taste very good! Aside from the great snacks, the poetry and music that evening were memorable to say the least. From a 17th Century murder ballad performed by Zak Hobbs (6.2), to an engaging reading of Robert Burns’ John Barleycorn read by Ally Swain (Block 5), complete with Scottish accent, as well as some original pieces by Jess Sankey (6.2) and Harley Mitford (6.2), the variety and the atmosphere kept us safe from the biting cold. The evening revealed the level of artistry and enthusiasm that makes this school great.

By Mohammad Pechuho, 6.2

Sotherington Barn

*************************************************************************************************

Bedales School is one of the UK’s top independent private co-education boarding schools. Bedales comprises three schools situated in Steep, near Petersfield, Hampshire: Dunannie (ages 3–8), Dunhurst (ages 8–13) and Bedales itself (ages 13–18). Established in 1893 Bedales School puts emphasis on the Arts, Sciences, voluntary service, pastoral care, and listening to students’ views. Bedales is acclaimed for its drama, theatre, art and music. The Headmaster is Keith Budge.

Poetry readings

There are many students at Bedales who have a love for literature. Not only is there a literary society where groups of English students explore more of their passion for books; the poetry society does exactly that for poems. Usually, concerning the literary society, the members will read the same book and discuss it. A few years ago we read Life and Fate by Vassily Grossman, and then compared our views on the style of writing and the plot in general, over tea and biscuits. 

Last week, I was fortunate enough to join the poetry society for an evening of reading and discussing favourite poets. This was a really great opportunity to continue exploring English outside of the classroom. I read a Wilfred Owen poem, Dulce et Decorum Est, which involves a very graphic description of the physical effects of war, contrasting with the ironic title of the poem, which concludes with ‘pro patria mori.’ Other poems involved Phillip Larkin, where many of us had different views on his writing. Nell Whittaker in 6.2 read his poem The Mower, which differed from his normal complex narrative. After having the British poet laureate winner Carol Ann Duffy come and do a reading at Bedales, many of us engaged with her poetry and this was brought to the society. Her nostalgic poem Premonitions, about the death of her mother, echoed what we had heard recently at the Olivier Theatre. There was a lot of discussion on her original and clever technique on structurally narrating the events of the poem in reverse. I was also going to read her other poem, Mrs Midas, but we ran out of time. I found it fascinating how she could adapt the word ‘gold’ into so many different humorous phrases throughout this poem.

There were a few students who brought poems they had written themselves, George Morony in Block 5 wrote a poem inspired by a horse head he happened to come across on the Thames when going for a walk. Eddie Oliver (6.1), Jess Sankey (6.2), and Abby Sedgley (Block 5) also read their own poems. I thought Jess’s Our Father was very beautiful, being a play on the Lord’s player. It was very cleverly written and yet easily understandable. I found it interesting to see who felt like they should rhyme and who wrote poems sounding more like prose. There also seemed to be a warlike theme surrounding the poetry that night, because of Wilfred Owen and other poems on the Spanish Civil War. We discussed the difference in Wilfred Owen before he went to war and afterwards, and how this affected his poetry. All of the poems were read beautifully and it was a really nice experience to discover new poems, and share work of our own, or from other poets. Not only did this give us the chance to explore more of a range of reading, it inspired me to try and write some poems of my own.

by Sophie Grierson, 6.2

********************************************************************************************************************

Bedales School is one of the UK’s top independent private co-education boarding schools. Bedales comprises three schools situated in Steep, near Petersfield, Hampshire: Dunannie (ages 3–8), Dunhurst (ages 8–13) and Bedales itself (ages 13–18). Established in 1893 Bedales School puts emphasis on the Arts, Sciences, voluntary service, pastoral care, and listening to students’ views. Bedales is acclaimed for its drama, theatre, art and music. The Headmaster is Keith Budge.