On Wednesday 9th December, renowned poet, spoken word artist, playwright and novelist, Joelle Taylor, came to perform and run a poetry workshop at Darrick Wood School. Joelle Taylor is a former UK slam champion and founder and artistic director of the Poetry Society’s national solo youth slam SLAMbassadors UK. She has produced four plays for theatre as well as several texts on performance practice. What’s more, her poetry was on last year’s syllabus for the English Language GCSE (OCR board).
Joelle started the workshop talking about her own difficult background and explaining to pupils how, at the age of seven, she couldn’t write her own name, but eventually discovered the amazing transformative power of poetry. She performed her most famous poem, ‘Last Poet Standing’, which explores the themes of gang culture, inner city poverty and the power of poetry to transform young people’s lives. Her lyrical but also poignant poetry moved everyone in the audience. Her performance is mesmerising in its use of gestures, facial expression, not to mention the auditory qualities of poetic language, such as internal rhyme and rhythm to evoke emotion.
Joelle then ran a workshop for pupils, including members of the school’s Creative Writing Club, inspiring pupils to write some excellent poetry. Pupils then performed their own poems with great confidence. After the session, Joelle stated how impressed she was by the high standard of creative writing at Darrick Wood School, and she praised pupils for their empathy with those less fortunate than themselves. Indeed, in an email written the week following the event she wrote: “I had a brilliant morning with the kids at Darrick Wood! What an exceptional group of young people – what powerful, imaginative poems.”
Members of the school’s Creative Writing Club are still raving about what a fantastic poet and performer Joelle Taylor is; she has inspired many of them in their writing as they have entered a recent national competition on the lyrical poem. Most importantly, her performance and workshop proved that poetry is far from dead, and that it not only speaks to teenagers but can also become a powerful vehicle for self-expression, whatever one’s background.