Young Poets Name Sylvia Plath Top Poet of All Time

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A survey of young poets by The Poetry Society released for National Poetry Day reveals their Top 3 Poets as Sylvia Plath, Maya Angelou and William Shakespeare.

A survey* of young writers aged 11-17 years old by The Poetry Society has revealed their all-time top 3 poets.  338 different poets were mentioned overall with Sylvia Plath taking top position (12.9%) then Maya Angelou (10.9%) followed by William Shakespeare (10.9%). Rupi Kaur came fourth (9.7%).

The top 20 names also included Frost, Duffy, Dickinson, Poe, Keats, Shelley, Blake, Owen, Wordsworth and Eliot.

Asked who was their one favourite living poet Carol Ann Duffy came out top (11.1%) followed by Rupi Kaur (8.6%), Ocean Vuong (4.8%) and Simon Armitage (2.5%).  The top 20 names of living poets also included Amanda Lovelace, Sarah Kay, Alice Oswald, Richard Siken, Lang Leav, Don Paterson, Anne Carson and Imtiaz Dharker.

"The fact that 338 different poets were mentioned shows an impressive range in young people's reading habits," said Judith Palmer, Director, The Poetry Society. "What's also interesting is a reference to Instagram poets such as Rupi Kaur, Amanda Lovelace and Lang Leav which supports the view that many young people are being introduced to and following poetry, not through the classroom, but via social media."

In additional comments, many young people said they craved access to a wider variety of poetry in school and that this would make poetry more popular among their classmates. One said: "they need to read poetry that speaks to them about issues that they care about written by poets that they can relate to."

One respondent said, 'I want my classmates to also learn the poetry I know and have seen all over the internet. Poetry nowadays can be powerful and show-stopping and it should be taught in a way that students can experience poetry on a whole other level and eventually learn to love it in their own time.'

Others wanted other young people to have the opportunity of'seeing work by someone close to the reader's age (young poets)', a need for 'relatable' poetry and 'more poets from marginalised communities or backgrounds brought into the mainstream such as women or women of colour'.

59% of the young people responding were from across the UK, and 39% internationally, from countries including USA, Canada, Singapore, India, Sri Lanka, South Africa and the Philippines (2% didn't indicate where they lived). There was a surprising similarity between the reading lists, with international respondents regularly choosing UK writers as their favourites, and UK respondents selecting poets from other countries. Sylvia Plath and Carol Ann Duffy topped the lists for all respondents and also when counting UK respondents only.

In the same survey, young writers were also asked whether there should be time set aside in the school day to write for pleasure.95% of respondents indicated that they thought space to write for pleasure in school was important.  When asked why, over half (51.3%) made comments about the positivewellbeing and mental health benefits to writing poetry.  One young Londoner said'It acts as a way of stepping back and offers a chance to reflect. This is vital in the increasing stressful and ever changing world.'

Other comments included: 'Writing is such a helpful way to sort out what has been on your mind''Because writing is freedom and letting out your pain and emotions which teens usually don't get to do';'So you can pour out all of your feelings and experiences on that certain day when you don't have anyone who listens.'; and 'it is a good way of relaxing and expressing your emotions in a healthy way'.

The benefits aren't just therapeutic though. 39.2% of respondents made comments about the need for opportunities to be creative without the pressure of assessment.  One said: 'Times to explore creativity are not only therapeutic, but allow potentially awe-inspiring ideas to flourish'.  And the benefits aren't just for the young writers themselves. They reckon, writing poetry develops the skills our society needs, with comments such as:'knowing how to express yourself is a valuable tool for every person and for every profession, and it's important to be able to just be creative rather than be constantly learning millions of facts'.

◄ 12-year-old Ide Crawford named St Pancras International's 2018 poet laureate

This is Just to Say: John Woodall, Offa's Press ►


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M.C. Newberry

Mon 8th Oct 2018 16:12

It also begs the question "What and who are being taught as
subjects in modern schools?".

Big Sal

Fri 5th Oct 2018 15:53

The therapeutic benefit cannot be overstated.

On top of that, there's a Sylvia Plath excerpt in one of my favorite songs of all time, so I can see why young people like her. I'll be 25 next month, and one of the rappers here in the US that I listen to often, felt the need to insert her voice into one of his songs.

Excellent listen and it came out beautifully.

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