Celebrating National Poetry Day

I used to think that everything needed to be perfect but now it’s more chilled. For example, the session on poetry, I was shy to read in front of everyone and was wondering why but the writing session itself helped strip away that intimidation of having to be perfect - Brent Young Creative

I believe poetry can help young people in many ways to express their views - Tower Hamlets Young Creative

When we started creating sessions for Element projects, designing activities involving creative writing, poetry and performance was one of our first priorities. Language can be a major tool for self-expression, for understanding the world, and for working out our place within it. There is nobody who could not benefit from this kind of reflection and creation. And it’s not just the process itself: the final results have the capacity to affect others: to nurture, support, challenge, lighten a load … There are no ends to the benefits of poetry. That’s why here at Element we’re delighted to be celebrating National Poetry Day 2019.

Almost all the young people we work with, previous to an Element project, have not written or performed their own poetry. Perceptions of stuffiness and old-fashionedness swim around poetry as an artform. In fact, it’s just about the most relevant way to communicate: from protest slogans to popular songs, a bit of rhythm goes a long way (we’ll refer you to Maya Angelou’s Still I Rise here). To throw away all preconceptions and start from a place of new creation, we will often begin sessions on poetry with games and activities around words and language: one word stories, one-liners that turn into collaborative nonsense poetry, and free writing are just some ways to start engaging with writing in an accessible and enjoyable way. It’s also a way of opening up the possibilities of language use - and by language, we don’t just mean English: we’ve worked with young people who speak Arabic, Farsi, Tigrinya, Amharic, Kurdish and Pashto (to name a few!): combining languages is a super dynamic way to think about meaning and intention.

Our next step in supporting participants to make poetry will often involve working with incredible writers and performers, who use their innovative and exciting styles to capture the collective imagination of Element groups. They have expertly supported participants to produce poems full of emotion and personality, and perform in front of a live audience at the end-of-project showcase events. From the Element team and young people, a HUGE thank you and big-up to writers Lewis Buxton, Madi Maxwell-Libby and Behailu Shiferaw and actors Martins Imhangbe and Joe McArdle. We also have our very own poet in residence: Maeve, Element’s Head of Programmes and Network, is also a Barbican Young Poet. All legends of the game!

We’ve been sharing poems written by Element Young Creatives on our twitter and instagram all this week - take a look for some inspo, and maybe challenge yourself to a poetry writing session? Here’s a little activity to get you started:


What Do You Care About? Poetry Prompters

On scrap paper, take each of these sentence starters, and spend 2 uninterrupted minutes free-writing whatever comes into your head. No stopping, no distractions!


Something that really gets on my nerves is …

I wish the world had more …

Something that I appreciate about life is …

Something I appreciate about myself is … 

I believe in …

Now, pick out words from all that you’ve written down that jump out at you. 

Write each word on a separate slip of paper. 

Can you form a poem from these words (you’re allowed to use linking words, too!)

Think about how you might like to present this: you could make the original slips of paper into an art piece, decorating around the words. Or you could record your piece. Or type it up. Or …

Eloise Acland