Rhiannon Reilly, winner of the Seamus Heaney Award for Achievement, writes about her experience with the Poetry in Motion Schools project

Poetry has always been one of my favourite elements of English and I enjoy each year in September when poetry month comes around in school and we get to explore all aspects and forms from sonnets to ballads and from odes to haikus and many diverse poets from the original bard Shakespeare to the more local, wise and earthy words of Heaney.

So, when my teacher suggested that I should get involved in the Poetry Motion Workshops I was delighted to get more opportunities to work on poetry.

What I hadn’t expected and thoroughly enjoyed was the chance to be guided and mentored by a published poet, Martelle McParland, whose encouragement and advice on editing and refining my ideas into something realistic and poetic really helped me to polish my final product. Furthermore, her idea to visit our local cathedrals to inspire our writing really helped me to see how poetry has a life outside the classroom.

The idea for ‘Visiting Hours’ came about both through my desire to find an original idea for the poem and the emotions I felt after many visits to my mother’s Aunt Kathleen in a nursing home when I felt that the silence was sometimes overwhelming and we tried to fill the time with conversation even though she was unable to fully communicate with us.

I was delighted and surprised when my poem was selected for publication and when I had the opportunity to read it out on the stage in the Ulster Hall I was shaking, both with nerves and excitement.

Hearing the judge discuss why she had selected the winning poem and how it made her feel, I still didn’t realise that it was my poem, so hearing my name read out as the individual award winner was amazing and a little surreal! I was thrilled. My teachers and my parents were ecstatic and very proud of me.

Poetry in Motion has given me an opportunity I will cherish for many years to come and having my poem published alongside other talented young writers is just the icing on the cake.

Thanks to our principal funder the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Belfast City Council, Halifax Foundation, Santander Foundation and Enkalon Foundation.

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