We hear from Graham Smith, shadow to Chris Redmond in the South East.

We’re in the middle of our three workshop sessions with around twenty kids, looking for eight to continue to the regional finals at The Nuffield, Southampton. So what is this part of the project all about? Is it about giving the spotlight to the best writers? Is it about the kids who grab your attention the minute they enter the room?

I think it is about carefully teasing out a kernel of poetry from an individual, nurturing it into something living and beautiful, and drawing their attention to this thing that has always been inside them but never seen the light of day?

This group of twenty and soon there will soon be just the final eight and whittling it down won’t be an easy task. Some, with a lot more time, might become great poets but we don’t have a lot more time and all we can go on is what we see right now.

In this session one boy asks for help: “I don’t know how to write a poem,” he says, he has in front of him a page of free-writing (this is when you just write whatever you want, in free thought, until the page is full) yet he doesn’t know how to dig out the words that will make a poem.

“What event did you describe?” I ask.

“A football match,” he says.

“Was it an important match,” I ask.

“No,” he says,

“Was it an exciting match,” I ask,

“No,” he says.

“Will it make a poem people will want to hear,” I ask. A pause.

“No,” he says.

“Right then, tell me about what it’s like here in this school?” he looks a bit blank. “Alright, what’s it like in the corridor when everyone’s moving between lessons,” I say. He looks away for a moment and then looks down at his page and writes ‘In the Corridor’ as a title.

Then he writes: He is pushed/He is shoved and doesn’t ask any more questions, he gets his head down and writes so I leave him to help someone else but keep looking back to see a poem being born, live on the table, to someone who didn’t know how to write one. He doesn’t read it out at the end but Chris reads it to me on the drive back to the station. It’s the best poem of the day.