Poet Mandy Coe recently visited Bolton School Girls’ Division to give two workshops to pupils, encouraging them to start writing. The sessions focused on how pupils feel about themselves and the strength of being a young woman.
Mandy’s workshops interspersed writing exercises with readings of her own poetry, discussions about writing and topical issues and questions from the group.
She used poems to open up discussion. She brought up the powerful poem ‘I’ve Been Known’ by Denise Duhamel in connection to the very recent Women’s Marches that took place globally, and asked whether pupils talked about current affairs. She also linked it to one of her own poems, from a point of view of a child in a war zone.
The pupils read Lucille Clifton’s ‘Homage to my Hips’ and were then asked to come up with with an ‘homage’ title of their own, using a part of their body that they feel is particularly strong. She showed pupils ‘Van Gogh’s Yellow Chair’ by Mark Roper, and talked about how artwork can be used as inspiration in different ways. Throughout both sessions, the girls were encouraged to observe the world around them.
The students then had the opportunity to ask Mandy about herself. When asked if it is hard to be a poet, she said that, although she used to think it was hard, she now finds it easy, adding “it’s much harder to be a good writer!”
Mandy talked about her surprise when she won the Manchester Prize, her writing inspiration from her mother and one of her school teachers, how she generates poetry ideas, and the length of time it takes her to write a poem. She also shared writing advice, advising them to put their work away for a while before editing it in order to “see it with new eyes”.