14th October 2020
Review by Lily Tibbitts
For most kids at school, poetry is the worst thing to happen in English lessons. It’s complicated, it can be hard to follow and it uses far too many techniques that you have to be able to point out in an essay. One person who shared this dislike of poetry in school was critically-acclaimed poet Anthony Anaxagorou.
In his video for schools and young people, Anthony explains how he struggled with poetry in class and how that shaped his perspective throughout his younger years, especially in a competitive and highly academic school where he struggled a lot in the lower sets. He began to give up on his education, believing there wasn’t much point as there was no chance of him moving up to the top classes.
Taking us through his journey from an unconfident teenager to a highly achieved author, Anthony describes in his new book, How To Write It, how he fell back in love with poetry. He shows us that it doesn’t matter if you can write an essay on a poem, as long as it’s making you think and feel; when poems do this, you know you’re reading them right.
The book is a short, practical guide that chronicles Anthony’s own journey as a poet, as well as including a wide variety of tips and ways of thinking to help any aspiring poet. Part memoir and part manual, How To Write It covers the common questions surrounding writer’s block, self-publishing, social media, finding an agent and much more.
For a class of students who maybe don’t enjoy studying poetry, this is ideal in explaining its worth and encouraging kids to give it a second chance. The idea of “thinking in poetry” that Anthony brings up could inspire those who see the world in a different way to pick up a pen. His experiences in school could get children in lower sets to consider that poetry isn’t necessarily something that they can’t access.
Furthermore, How To Write It encourages young people to do just that – write. The technical aspects of poetry may seem daunting at first, but Anthony reassures us that it gets easier, especially with the help of the tips and tricks in the book. He includes prompts and ideas in the video itself to spark the imagination, encouraging young people to brave the blank page and try out poetry, no matter what background they come from.
Anthony hopes that everyone who reads the book will be able to take something from it, and the shortened version of his life story that he tells makes it clear that this will happen. His narrative of overcoming self-doubt is a powerful message for all young people, inspiring them to express themselves in a new and different way.
Watch the event until November 1st here.
This work was produced by participants on our Durham Book Festival Reviewers in Residence programme, a cultural journalism programme run by New Writing North Young Writers. Reviewers in Residence gives aspiring journalists aged 15-23 the chance to review books, attend events and interview authors at the Durham Book Festival. For more information about New Writing North Young Writers visit the New Writing North website.