Can poetry help our children fix the future? by Simon Mole

September 19, 2018

Simon Mole is a poet, emcee and theatre maker. He has over 10 years’ experience working with rap and poetry in community and education settings, including projects with Great Ormond Street Hospital and Arsenal FC. In this special blog for National Poetry Day he suggests that poetry can help our children fix the future.

It is critical today, perhaps more than ever, that young people have the space to imagine and create for themselves an idea of the world they want to live in. Part of this is thinking about what they may need to change in order to bring that world into being.

The issues our society faces, be that budget cuts to a local arts centre or library, or the devastating global impact of climate change, demand that we all engage in order to protect future generations. As a professional poet and performer who has worked with young people for over a decade, I have always seen poetry as an opportunity for individuals to find their own voice, understand its power and think about the wider change it might possibly bring about.

Wherever I meet young people – be it in a school, youth project, hospital or a young offenders’ institute – a large part of the journey is nurturing the simple but sometimes absent notion that they are interesting people with stories to tell, valuable ideas and opinions to share. These opinions may initially appear small scale, based in the day to day rather than the wider injustices of this world. But the practice of considering what we think and forming a creative response, be it to what we might hear in the playground, on the bus, or on the news, means we come to appreciate that each of us has something unique to say and the inalienable right to say it aloud.

Time and again I am moved and inspired by the rapid growth in a young person’s confidence and self- belief when they are supported to creatively express themselves through poetry or rap. For them to see how powerfully their words affect others is a transformative experience, which in the best cases leads to a real sense of agency and potential impact on the world. Hard evidence of course is essential in any argument for change, but individuals and communities must also be sparked into action on an emotional and personal level. Poetry in its nature is both personal and powerfully emotive. By finding their unique voice and expressing it creatively, young people can become a force of positivity and hope. The videos and resources I have created for this year’s National Poetry Day form a fun session that uses games and activities to build skills, and tools and techniques to support children in to using a range of poetic devices. They will be able to write a poem about their voice and how they can use it to make themselves heard about what really matters to them. You can download the free plan here.

By answering a series of simple questions children (or adults) can write a poem – share Simon’s special writing exercise to help young poets quickly generate ideas.