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My weekly visits to St Gregory’s Catholic College, Bath, have come to an end now that the school year has finished. I’m grateful to Headteacher, Ann Cusack, for inviting me to be Writer in Residence for a year, and to all students and staff who welcomed me to the school community and ensured that I enjoyed a busy, sometimes challenging, always stimulating and extremely happy year.

I’ve used this blog as means of keeping notes about my residency and I’ve tagged all relevant posts #writerinschool which you can use as a search term on this site, if you’d like to read all of my notes. …


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As you know, I was Writer in Residence at St Gregory’s School, Bath, in the academic year 2017–2018, and I’ve been using this blog as a place to record my experience, especially workshops I’ve run.

This is a post about using two poems by Katherine Stansfield, ‘How to make a good crisp sandwich’ and ‘Socks or cheese?’ from her poetry collection Playing House (Seren, 2014).

I used these poems in workshops with students aged 11–14 but I think poetry readers and writers of all ages would respond well to them.

I first shared the title of ‘Socks or cheese’ and asked students to name as many different types of cheese as they could. Cheddar, inevitably, turned up. …


I wanted to write a few posts before my residency at St Gregory’s Catholic College ends, especially mentioning poems that prompted a lot of animated discussion and produced some exciting creative writing from school students.

‘Other Clouds’ by Rebecca Perry from her collection Beauty/Beauty (Bloodaxe, 2015) and ‘what my mother (a poet) might say’ by Mary Jean Chan from pamphlet collection a hurry of english (ignitionpress, Oxford Brookes Poetry Centre, 2018) have been two such poems. …


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I’m back at St Gregory’s Catholic College, Bath, for my final term as Writer in Residence and I thought I’d mention two poems which students have particularly enjoyed. Both are about creatures — one about a wasp, and one about seagulls. The students loved reading the poems and they’ve written brilliant poems in response. The two poems are Wasp by Rebecca Perry from her wonderful collection Beauty/Beauty (Bloodaxe, 2015) and Seagull by Brian McCabe from his collection Body Parts (Canongate 1999).

Wasp by Rebecca Perry is available to read online here at The Manchester Review.

I’ve mainly used these poems with Year 7 and Year 8 students. I first read Wasp aloud. Students listened and wrote down what they thought the poem was about. Most thought that little snail-slime wings and little alien, little feeler was describing a creature, possibly a bird or an insect. little pollen sucking bead made some think it might be a bee. …


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I can hardly believe that after Easter, I’ll be starting my final term as Writer in Residence at St Gregory’s Catholic College, Bath. The time has whizzed by. This term, as well as reading and writing poetry, students have written crime fiction, particularly looking at very short stories (flash fiction). We received the good news that six students were successful in Live Canon’s Children’s Poetry Competition and will see their work performed on stage at the prizegiving ceremony, as well as published in the prizewinners’ anthology. You can read a little more about this in the school newsletter.

We’ve been thinking about poems about place, as this is the theme for the Betjeman Poetry Prize which I’m hoping that Year 7 and 8 students will enter. I found Kate Clanchy’s Top Tips for Young Poets full of good ideas for poems. …


Reposted from my blog.

October 2017. Popping in briefly to say I’ve had a happy but busy poetry week. I was in St Gregory’s all day Wednesday and most of Thursday (National Poetry Day) and I stayed for their Open Evening on Thursday so wasn’t home until nearly 10pm.

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I think that my school residency is going well, so far! I’m really enjoying working with students from different years in small groups. I love selecting poems to read and creating writing exercises based around them. We’ve been continuing to write around ideas about ‘Freedom’ as that was the National Poetry Day theme this year. …


Reposted from my blog. I enjoy browsing through poetry books on the look out for poems that I think will work well in a workshop. As I mentioned before, the theme for National Poetry Day this year is ‘Freedom’ so I’ve been looking for suitable poems to take into St Gregory’s Catholic College where I’m working as Writer in Residence. I found two good ones in Esther Morgan’s 2011 Bloodaxe book Grace. They are As I Walked Out and The Long Holidays (see below).

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Something I’ve noticed about working with novice poets is their fondness for using ‘poetic language’ in their poems. Grass has a tendency to be “emerald green”, the sea often “shimmers magically”, “clouds drift softly,” and so on. Sometimes this kind of writing spoils my enjoyment as a reader, firstly because I’ve read those phrases many times before and, secondly, because I sense that writers are trying to conform to their idea of how a poem should be, rather than trying to convey what they really mean. …


Reposts from my blog where I am keeping notes about my writing residency in a school.

September 2017. It’s still early days in my residency, I’m now in my fourth week although I’m actually only ‘in residence’ one day a week. Between weekly visits, I keep in touch with students and staff by school email.

It’s important to mention that I’m being hugely supported by staff in the English Department of the school, who have organised rooms and spaces for me to work from and arranged for students to take time out of their scheduled English lessons to write with me. Anyone who understands the complexities of classroom availability and a school timetable, and the obligation to write to parents and carers to ask their permission for students to take part in an extra curricular activity, will understand the extra admin involved in this kind of venture. …


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This week I took Alice Oswald’s book Weeds and Wild Flowers in to St Gregory’s Catholic College, Bath, where I’m working as Writer in Residence.

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I was prompted to do this by Sarah Westcott’s gorgeous poem about snowdrops Fair Maids of February which was a winner in this year’s Cafe Writers Competition judged by Liz Berry. I love the way Sarah Westcott has used a folklore name for the winter flower — she also calls them “little milk flowers” in the poem, another name the flower is known by — and how she imagines them as ‘girls’ or ‘maids’.

So many of you this morning!
White headscarves drawn…


I brought in some crime flash fiction to St Gregory’s School where I work one day a week as writer in residence and the students loved reading, talking about, and writing their own very short crime stories. These were Year 8 and Year 9 students, aged 12–14, with a variety of different literacy abilities and backgrounds.

I used fictions from CrimeFest’s Flashbang Competition, in particular Search History by Iain Rowan, a crime story told through the perpetrator’s internet search history; Life Sentence by Tracey Walsh, a case of mistaken identity; Jez’s Promise by Stu Haven, a story of a car theft with a twist; Friends Reunited by Rebecca Stanley, a dark tale of revenge and Good Fluffy by Emma Bladen, a story of a cunning murderer and an even more cunning witness. …

About

Josephine Corcoran

Writer in School. Published poet, short story writer and playwright. www.josephinecorcoran.org @And_OtherPoems

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