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Devizes Festival: Andrew Motion, Town Hall
PRIMARY school children should be encouraged to commit poetry to memory as well as writing their own, said former Poet Laureate Sir Andrew Motion.
Sir Andrew, who visited Devizes Festival on Sunday, said that learning from the great poets, far from stifling active young minds, would help children with their own creativity.
He told the Gazette before his talk in the town hall on Sunday afternoon: “The things we learn in our early years stay with us for the rest of our lives. Poems have serious things to say about life and learning something of their brilliance must have an effect on your own work.
“You want to see what you are doing in the context of what has gone before.”
Although Sir Andrew was in Devizes to publicise his new novel, Silver, a sequel to Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, he touched on the experience of being Poet Laureate between 1999 and 2009 and the impact it had on his writing.
He said: “I was very pleased to be asked to do it because the opportunities are far greater to get things done than if I wasn’t called upon. The online site I was able to set up has most definitely changed the way poetry is taught in schools.”
But the strain of being called upon to write poems about royal occasions had its impact. He said: “The day I put it down I started writing poetry again. It was as though they had been circling like planes at Heathrow.”
Sir Andrew admits that he had never read Treasure Island as a child. He said: “I didn’t read anything when I was a child. My family weren’t people who read books. It wasn’t until I went to university and my girlfriend at the time sorted me out, that I read classic children’s books.”
He added: “The road to hell is paved with bad sequels and prequels. The ones that work come completely away from the originals and then come back at an oblique angle.”
After reading from Silver, Sir Andrew read two poems, one of which he had written after the recent death of his father. He then answered questions and signed copies of the new books and chatted to members of the audience while sponsors, Annie’s Catering, dispensed cream teas in the council chamber of the town hall.