Making Poetry Happen

making poetry happen


Announcing the publication of Making Poetry Happen: Transforming the Poetry Classroom (Bloomsbury, 2015).

Making Poetry Happen provides a valuable resource for trainee and practising teachers, enabling them to become more confident and creative in teaching what is recognized as a very challenging aspect of the English curriculum. The volume editors draw together a wide-range of perspectives to provide support for development of creative practices across the age phases, drawing on learners’ and teachers’ perceptions of what poetry teaching is like in all its forms and within a variety of contexts, including:

– inspiring young people to write poems
– engaging invisible pupils (especially boys)
– listening to poetry
– performing poetry

Throughout, the contributors include practical, tried-and-tested materials, including activities, and draw on case studies. This approach ensures that the theory is clearly linked to practice as they consider teaching and learning poetry to those aged between 5 and 19 from different perspectives, looking at reading; writing; speaking and listening; and transformative poetry cultures. Each of the four parts includes teacher commentaries on how they have adapted and developed the poetry activities for use in their own classroom.


1.Introduction, Sue Dymoke (University of Leicester, UK), Myra Barrs (University of East London, UK), Andrew Lambirth (University of Greenwich, UK) and Anthony Wilson (University of Exeter, UK)

Part I: Reading Poetry (section editor: Andrew Lambirth)
2. The Challenges and Opportunities for Engaging with Poetry, Nicholas McGuinn (University of York, UK)
3. Lifting Poetry off the Page, Susanna Steele (University of Greenwich, UK)
4. Case Study I: Critical Reading and Student Engagement with Poetry, Daniel Xerri (Sixth College, Malta)
5. Case Study II: Not ‘Puppets on a String’: Learning to Love Teaching Poetry, Andrew Lambirth (University of Greenwich, UK)
6. Commentary and Practical Implications: Righting the ‘Wrong Kind of Orientation’, Andrew Lambirth (University of Greenwich, UK)

Part II: Writing Poetry (section editor: Myra Barrs)
7. Inspiring Young People to Write Poems, Cliff Yates (poet, UK)
8. Teaching Poetry Based on Actual Writing Practices, Mandy Coe (poet, UK)
9. Case Study III: Becoming a Poetry School, Jennie Clark (Churchfields Infants School, London Borough of Redbridge) with Myra Barrs (University of East London, UK)
10. Case Study IV: Why Poetry Matters in the Primary School, Sue Ellis (Institute of Education, University of London, UK) and Amy Clifford (Torriano Infant School, UK)
11. Case Study V: Making Poetry Happen in a Sixth Form Environment, Jane Bluett (Bilborough Sixth Form College, UK)
12. Commentary and Practical Implications: A Flicker in the Mind, Myra Barrs (University of East London, UK)

Part III: Speaking and Listening to Poetry (section editor: Sue Dymoke)
13. Poetry, Listening and Learning, Julie Blake (Poetry Archive, UK)
14. Rhyme Workshops, Andy Craven-Griffiths (poet, UK)
15. Slam Poetry, Joelle Taylor (SLAMbassadors UK, UK)
16. Case Study VII: How English Teachers Make Use of Slam Poetry in a Secondary School Setting, Christopher Parton (Robert Sutton Catholic Specialist Sports College, UK)
17. Case Study VIII, Gothic Poetry, Brenda Ainsley (Kibworth High School, UK)
18. Commentary and Practical Implications: Inside the Poem’s Engine Room, Sue Dymoke (University of Leicester, UK)

Part IV: Transformative Poetry Cultures (section editor: Anthony Wilson)
19. Building Children’s and Teachers’ Interest and Confidence in Poetry, Jenny Vernon (Centre for Literacy in Primary Education (CLPE), UK)
20. Engaging Invisible Pupils through Creative Writing, Emma Beynon (freelance creative practitioner currently running
21. Case Study VIII: Effective Practices with English as an Additional Language (EAL) Learners, Vicky Macleroy (Goldsmith’s College, University of London, UK)
22. Case Study IX: Digital Literacy, Janette Hughes (University of Ontario Institute of Technology, Canada)
23. Commentary and Practical Implications: A Pedagogy of Permission, Anthony Wilson (University of Exeter, UK)
24. Conclusion, Anthony Wilson (University of Exeter, UK), Myra Barrs (University of East London, UK), Sue Dymoke (University of Leicester, UK) and Andrew Lambirth (University of Greenwich, UK)

Making Poetry Happen is the companion volume to Making Poetry Matter: International Research on Poetry Pedagogy. Both volumes arise from research reported on at the ESRC-funded Seminar Series Poetry Matters (2011-12).


  1. What a wonderful tool. During the promotion of my current book, I recently sat in front of a group of 15-17 year olds, reading my poems and discussing them. Afterwards, I received student reviews and found most students were shocked they “actually got poetry!” My tiny good deed for a few hours!


  2. Yes, a wonderful tool, indeed. You touched on one of my favorite teaching gigs – I was a guest poet in a middle school a few years ago working with sixth through eighth graders. The first day with the sixth graders, the teacher happily introduced me as someone who would teach them poetry. A boy in the second row gave me one of “those” looks and threw his pen as high as he could in the air as if to say, “Not me!” By the end of the week, he was writing poetry. But I learned a valuable lesson with students this age – they like to be in herds. When I invited students to come up and read their poems one by one, no one came. Then I asked everyone with a poem to come to the front of the room at the same time. Each student in the “herd” was then comfortable reading to the others. You and your colleagues are doing wonders to keep poetry alive and well in the classroom. Thanks for writing about the book.
    As ever, Molly


  3. Congrats to you, Anthony! And what a great tool for teachers and anyone working with kids and teens, who are (based on my personal experience) much more responsive to poetry than people often believe. Again, bravo!


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