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Laois student named winner in prestigious all-island poetry speaking competition – ‘Poetry Aloud’

Portlaoise College Students have been announced among the winners of this year’s Poetry Aloud competition, which challenges second-level students across the country to perform a prescribed poem from memory.

Organised by the National Library of Ireland (NLI) and Poetry Ireland, this year’s competition drew 365 entries from 65 schools across the island.

There were 22 finalists in this year’s competition from across 14 counties, from Antrim to Kerry.

George Pham, 12 from Portlaoise College, was been named as the winner of the competition’s Junior category and was presented with a Poetry Aloud certificate from the Director of the NLI, Dr Audrey Whitty.

Kyna McNamee, also from Portlaoise College, was a finalist.

The competition has been running since 2007 and has three categories: junior, intermediate, and senior.

The prescribed poems for this year were:

  • Dolphin by Catherine Ann Cullen (junior);
  • What Then? by William Butler Yeats (intermediate);
  • In Memory of Eva Gore-Booth and Con Markiewicz by W.B. Yeats (senior).

The late poet, Seamus Heaney was a supporter of the competition, citing the extraordinary way in which it seeks to celebrate the joy of speaking and listening to poetry, as well valuing the North-South dimension to the all-island event.

This year’s competition also had a special connection to poet WB Yeats, as December 2023 marks the centenary of the award of the Nobel Prize for Literature to the poet.

Speaking at the presentation, Dr Audrey Whitty, Director, of the National Library of Ireland said: “The goal of Poetry Aloud is for students to learn to interact with poetry in a way that is beyond words on a page.

“It is also about getting involved and being part of an all-island event that seeks to celebrate the joy of speaking and listening to poetry.”

Brid O’Sullivan from the NLI’s Exhibitions, Learning and Programming Department commented:This competition has been a highlight in the National Library’s calendar since 2007.

“We are custodians of the manuscripts of many of Ireland’s greatest poets and it is inspiring to hear their works recited with such skill in the Poetry Aloud competition each year.”

Liz Kelly, Director of Poetry Ireland remarked: “We are thrilled to work with colleagues at the National Library of Ireland, UCC and schools all over Ireland to once again present our national poetry speaking project,  Poetry Aloud.

“It is a fun and dynamic way to enjoy and develop an understanding and love of poetry. Speaking poems in public, we believe, builds self-confidence and helps develop social and emotional maturity.

“Through Poetry Aloud, in keeping with all of our work in education, we aim to create lifelong lovers of poetry and creative writing and to offer an opportunity for all types of students to succeed.”

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