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Realizing the power of words at Poetry by Heart

On Saturday, March 18, students Mana (Grade 9) and Lea (Grade 11) represented ISP for the first time in the English Language Schools Association (ELSA) Poetry by Heart recital competition. Participating alongside eight other schools, the competition for ISP was tough and the overall winner of the competition came from the Camille Sée International Section.

All in all it was a fantastic event which really brought home to the students – and their captivated audience – the importance and power of words and their meaning.


Participating in ELSA's poetry by heart was an extremely gratifying and rewarding experience for me. I understood how intonation and vocal expression can give life to words written decades ago, and can elicit a very emotional response from the audience. The feeling of standing up on the stage, with the light shining in my eyes, and the occasional rumble of the metro, while the words flowed out of my mouth and into the open air, gave me an inexplicable rush. It made me feel vulnerable, open, ready to be judged.

I recommend Poetry by Heart to anyone who has an interest in English, or theatre, or anyone who simply wants to experience the rush of performing a poem live and triggering many different emotions in the eyes of the audience. It truly was an amazing adventure and I'm pretty sure I'll want to do it again next year.

Lea, Grade 11

Representing ISP at Poetry by Heart


Below are two of the four poems that Mana and Lea recited at the competition.

"To Althea from Prison"
Richard Lovelace, 1642

When Love with unconfined wings
Hovers within my gates;
And my divine Althea brings
To whisper at the grates:
When I lie tangled in her hair,
And fettered to her eye;
The Gods that wanton in the air,
Know no such liberty.

When flowing cups run swiftly round
With no allaying Thames,
Our careless heads with roses bound,
Our hearts with loyal flames;
When thirsty grief in wine we steep,
When healths and draughts go free,
Fishes that tipple in the deep
Know no such liberty.

When like committed linnets, I
With shriller throat shall sing
The sweetness, mercy, majesty,
And glories of my King;
When I shall voice aloud how good
He is, how great should be;
Enlarged winds that curl the Flood,
Know no such liberty.

Stone walls do not a prison make,
Nor iron bars a cage;
Minds innocent and quiet take
That for an hermitage;
If I have freedom in my love,
And in my soul am free;
Angels alone, that sore above,
Enjoy such Liberty.

"London Snow"
Robert Bridges, 1890

When men were all asleep the snow came flying,
In large white flakes falling on the city brown,
Stealthily and perpetually settling and loosely lying,
Hushing the latest traffic of the drowsy town;
Deadening, muffling, stifling its murmurs failing;
Lazily and incessantly floating down and down:
Silently sifting and veiling road, roof and railing;
Hiding difference, making unevenness even,
Into angles and crevices softly drifting and sailing.
All night it fell, and when full inches seven
It lay in the depth of its uncompacted lightness,
The clouds blew off from a high and frosty heaven;
And all woke earlier for the unaccustomed brightness
Of the winter dawning, the strange unheavenly glare:
The eye marvelled – marvelled at the dazzling whiteness;
The ear hearkened to the stillness of the solemn air;
No sound of wheel rumbling nor of foot falling,
And the busy morning cries came thin and spare.
Then boys I heard, as they went to school, calling,
They gathered up the crystal manna to freeze
Their tongues with tasting, their hands with snowballing;
Or rioted in a drift, plunging up to the knees;
Or peering up from under the white-mossed wonder,
'O look at the trees!' they cried, 'O look at the trees!'
With lessened load a few carts creak and blunder,
Following along the white deserted way,
A country company long dispersed asunder:
When now already the sun, in pale display
Standing by Paul's high dome, spread forth below
His sparkling beams, and awoke the stir of the day.
For now doors open, and war is waged with the snow;
And trains of sombre men, past tale of number,
Tread long brown paths, as toward their toil they go:
But even for them awhile no cares encumber
Their minds diverted; the daily word is unspoken,
The daily thoughts of labour and sorrow slumber
At the sight of the beauty that greets them, for the charm they have broken.

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