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Poet Laureate full of praise for pupil-led literary festival

June 25th, 2015

Carol Ann Duffy at Lit fest in Shire Hall-7542A unique pupil-led celebration of literature has been described as “inspirational” by British Poet Laureate, Dame Carol Ann Duffy.

The acclaimed Scottish poet and playwright headlined the second annual Monmouth Literary Festival at the town’s Savoy Theatre on Wednesday night.

Laughter, sighs of wonderment and appreciative applause filled the packed room as Carol Ann brought a wide range of her beautiful poems to life on stage.

Organised by a committee of teenagers from Monmouth School, Haberdashers’ Monmouth School for Girls and Monmouth Comprehensive, the event runs between June 22 and June 26.

Carol Ann said: “The fact pupils have organised the festival is amazing.

“I’ve never heard of this, ever – three different schools in one community coming together like this.

“You hear of children organising in-school events, but to create a festival is really inspirational.

“It’s lovely to be here at the beginning. I like to support new festivals more than established ones.

“I did the first six Hay Festivals when they were like this, and they do grow.

“It’s a real pleasure to be here.”

Accompanied by musician John Sampson, who played a variety of medieval instruments between readings, the poet invoked an incredible array of emotions throughout the performance.

Carol Ann Duffy at Lit fest in Savoy Theatre-0851

Love poems from her collection entitled Rapture described the ups and downs of new relationships with real elegance.

Written in the form of sonnets, which Carol Ann described as “the little black dress of love poetry”, subjects went from texting to tea and rowing.

The audience was also treated to an incredibly emotional reading of the Laureate’s Premonitions, about the death of her mother.

Her appearance at the Savoy followed an earlier show at the Shire Hall, exclusively for local schoolchildren.

Megan Freeman-Thompson, 16, from the Comprehensive, said: “I can’t believe I got to meet her.

“I studied her work for GCSEs last summer and I think her words are amazing – she captures everything in the most spectacular way.

“She inspired me to start writing my own poetry and now I write about whatever life throws at me.

“It was absolutely astonishing to see her.”

Megan was especially touched when Carol Ann gave her a signed book containing her favourite poem, Havisham.

“I asked her to sign my ticket because I couldn’t afford to buy a book,” Megan added.

“I thanked her for inspiring me and she gave me the book – I left the room with a huge grin on my face.”

The Laureate believes poetry is becoming ever more popular with children today.

Reflecting on the pupils she’d met in Monmouth, she said: “Young children are fantastic creative writers – they’re not self-conscious.

“Increasingly, teenagers are going to poetry readings and they write across the spectrum, from traditional poetry to rap to song lyrics – it can be so moving.

“It was my life from when I turned 12.

“I would write typical ‘no-one understands me’ poetry then.

“I read and was influenced by other poets. You start with imitation and then develop your own style – but I let other people decide what they think my style is.”

Abergavenny-born writer Owen Sheers closes the festival’s line-up of public events tonight (Thursday) at the Blake Theatre. Tickets are £5, or £2 for concessions.

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