The Art of Poetry: The Secondary Coffeehouse Reading
Every year, Secondary students and staff at Yew Chung International School of Beijing celebrate National Poetry Week with a Coffeehouse Poetry Reading.
The reading is also the culmination of the Identity and Perspectives topic, during which students are encouraged to explore themselves through the medium of poetry.
We speak to Head of English, Ms Rebecca Flavin, about the event.
Please explain the Coffeehouse event
During our Identity and Perspectives topic, students have been reading and discussing works by well-known poets and were given prompts such as photographs to begin their own poems. They were encouraged to be playful with language, using it in unique and interesting ways to produce powerful results.
While every student crafted and performed their own poem in class, teachers and the students themselves put forward some of their favourite poets for the Coffeehouse.
What is the purpose of the Coffeehouse reading?
Firstly, it is to celebrate poetry and provide a setting in which our students can enjoy and share poetry.
It is also to enhance our sense of community. Poetry is a personal and intimate exercise, and sharing these works with their peers builds a sense of closeness and respect.
We also want to encourage students to think about how they deliver their poems, using their voices and pauses to instil meaning in the verse.
What do you hope students learned from the event?
I hope that our students realise that anyone can write a poem. While, in class, we study works by well-known poets, anyone can express themselves through poetry.
I also think that our students have found ways to express themselves more creatively – sometimes breaking the rules of grammar to produce strong linguistic results.
How were EAL students incorporated into the event?
Our EAL students were completely a part of the event. In fact, giving EAL students a chance to share and perform their poetry is an important aspect of the Coffeehouse.
We spent several weeks working on our poems, meaning that our EAL students had time to produce a work that they were proud of and happy to share.
It takes a lot of courage to stand up in front of a crowd and read a poem – especially if English is not your first language. I am very pleased that we can make this event accessible to students with all English levels.
In taking part in this event, I hope that our EAL students felt welcomed by their peers and also recognised that they, too, have the ability to produce a fantastic piece of verse that is meaningful and beautiful.
What made the event special for you?
I support a group of students who are English language beginners. For them to achieve linguistic success not just in everyday language but in poetic writing is amazing. I felt very proud to see students, who often feel shy when speaking in English, take to the stage and rise to the challenge of performing.
Many of the teachers commented on how the EAL performers were some of the strongest. They were dramatic and thoughtful when they read, and it was a pleasure to listen to their work and share in their success.
Click here to read a selection of our Secondary students' poems.