Untold Stories

Untold Stories – Poetry at English Heritage

Untold Stories is an ongoing poetry programme that launched in 2020 and has included the commissioning of new poems inspired by our sites, a poetry exchange, a public poetry competition and the announcement of our first Poetry Fellow, Jacob Sam La-Rose

In 2023 we are forming a poetry steering group, featuring national poetry specialists and ambassadors, to collaborate on new ways to bring poetry to English Heritage sites.

Below you can read more about the Untold Stories programme and what is coming up this year.

The programme so far

Each year Untold Stories aims to explore the hidden histories and contemporary resonances of English Heritage sites through poetry.

Some of England’s best poets, both established and emerging, have been commissioned as part of the programme so far. They were asked to reflect on the history, fabric and atmosphere of our sites, using their creativity to explore what lies beneath the surface of history’s prevailing narratives – stories that have gone untold or people who have been forgotten.

The programme has also featured opportunities for young poets from Beatfreeks, Barbican Young Poets, The Writing Squad and ArtfulScribe, through a series of workshops led by poet Malika Booker.

Our first Poetry Fellow, Jacob Sam La-Rose was appointed in 2022. As part of his fellowship Jacob has explored a number of English Heritage sites and written new poems to be published here soon.

UNTOLD STORIES POETRY ANTHOLOGY

In 2020 we published a digital poetry anthology which brought together a collection of works written as part of the new programme. It features poems written in Shout Out Loud workshops led by Malika Booker; as part of the Untold Stories Poetry Competition; and by commissioned poets Esme Allman, Nii Ayikwei Parkes, Jay Bernard, Malika Booker, Safiya Kamaria Kinshasa and Jacob Sam-La Rose.

This unique collection allows us to experience English Heritage sites through a new lens and takes us from 800AD to 2020 and from Cumbria to Cornwall and everywhere in-between.

Read the anthology
Books scattered on a desk

Coming in 2023

This year we are forming a poetry steering group which will help connect English Heritage with young and aspiring new poets and form new collaborations and partnerships to develop poetry projects. This includes a new English Heritage Poetry apprenticeship to be launched in Autumn.

The apprenticeship which will support young poets in developing their work through site visits to inspiring English Heritage sites, mentoring from our Poetry Fellow, and performance opportunities at English Heritage events.

Jacob Sam-La Rose

Jacob’s Tips for Writing Poetry

To write poetry, you need to read it
When I started to take poetry seriously, I went to the Poetry Library on the South Bank in London and read everything I could put my hands on. There was a lot there that I didn’t appreciate or even understand, but making the effort to engage with that work helped me to appreciate the relations between what I wanted to do with my writing and what I didn’t want to do with my writing. It also helped me to appreciate that there are so many different ways of writing poems.

Find a way to get someone else’s thoughts on your writing
Feedback can be really useful, even if you ultimately reject it. It helps if you avoid asking someone if they like your poem but instead ask what a particular line or image meant to them.

Don’t just think of the poem as something you’re trying to show someone else
Listen out for what the poem is trying to tell you. Every poem is an opportunity to discover something.

Be true to your own voice
There’s value in emulating the poems you might admire but there’s a lot of power in the language you use every day.

Try on a different perspective for size
What happens when you try to write the poem from the perspective of someone (or even something) else in the scene or the moment you’re writing about?

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