Lockdown Poetry & Prose
Creative writing has been flourishing in guided home learning this term.
In early 1593, an outbreak of the plague forced London’s theatres to close and performances would not resume until the spring of 1594. During this period of theatrical inactivity, Shakespeare turned his hand to writing narrative poetry in the form of the epyllion, or minor epic. These two works of lockdown literature, Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece, formed the focal points for one of the English department’s many elective options for Upper Sixth students this summer term.
Not unlike Shakespeare himself, girls at South Hampstead have turned their hands to the writing of poetry and fiction during isolation. In one of the Year 11 pre-A Level electives, students studied Seamus Heaney’s 1975 collection North, featuring some of his most political poetry responding to the Troubles. Near the end of the sessions, the students were challenged to write poetry inspired by Heaney’s themes and style, taking into account the challenges of poetic creation in the midst of current turmoil and unrest. Juliana, Y11, wrote a poem, Armagideon Time, borrowing her title from a song by Jamaican reggae artist Willie Williams, just as Heaney had borrowed his title, Strange Fruit, from Abel Meeropol’s poem made devastatingly famous by Billie Holiday.
Vague images filter through; the videos and
news reports a fragile puzzle of divisions,
with edges that won’t fit together.
Sirens, messy crowds, squadrons of yellow vests
and defiant signs held up like fists;
the heat, the hardship, the boredom and frustrations.
It accretes and thickens,
providing fertile land for hate to bloom.
Opinions grow like poison ivy, obscuring and
then enshrouding the faces of those around us
‘til only the words “she is against” or
“he is with” remain emblazoned upon us.
People withdraw to their ranks on either side of
a line drawn long ago; gather back, then collide.
Others watch in bewilderment at what one
blight has morphed into-some terrible hydra.
It is dangerous to speak, but perhaps
the greater danger lies in silence.
The pressure to choose, the pressure to
say something – it is both personal
and public. And yet how can one choose
when being with one side means being
against the other?
Unless a bridge is built, perhaps we can only drown.
by Juliana in Year 11
Meanwhile, our youngest Senior School pupils have been studying African American poets, as part of their contextual exploration of Mildred D. Taylor’s Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. The style and structure of Langston Hughes’s Harlem proved inspirational for two Year 7 poets, Isabella and Alice – read their works here.
At one of our many creative writing clubs, which continue to thrive in lockdown, Alexandra in Year 7 was inspired by Shirley Jackson’s amusing story, Charles. Tasked with writing a story featuring a child, a parent, a school and mendacity, she produced an amusing tale of creative mischief during Guided Home Learning – read it here.