England, a collection of poetry by the the bright young poets of The Very Quiet Foreign Girls Poetry Group has been acquired by publisher Paul Baggaley and poetry editor Don Paterson. The anthology of poems, which sing stories of migration and building new homes will be published by Picador in June 2018.
Oxford Spires Academy is a small comprehensive school with thirty languages – and one special focus: poetry. In the last five years, its students have won every prize going, including, in 2017, the Forward Young Responses Prize (Mukahang Limbu, 16), the John Betjeman Prize (Amineh Abou Kerech, 13) and Foyle Young Poets (Aisha Mango Borja, 14). They have been celebrated in the Guardian and the subject of a Radio 3 documentary that was shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Award. Recently the poem I Have Divided My Heart by Syrian pupil Mohammed Assaf (12) went viral on Twitter.
In this anthology, their mentor and teacher, the prize-winning poet Kate Clanchy, brings their poems together, allowing readers to see why their work has caused such a stir. Raw and direct, funny and powerful, lyrical and heartbreaking, they document the pain of migration and the exhilaration of building a new land, an England of a thousand voices. This poetry is easy to read and hard to forget, as fresh, bright and present as the young migrants who produced it.
Kate Clanchy said: “It was late at night, I’d been to the pub, and I was putting together a school anthology of my students’ work over the last eight years for the retiring head teacher. I thought, as you do: gosh these are good. Anyone would want to read these. Editor Don Paterson and the team at Pan Macmillan saw what I saw in the poems: the excitement of fresh voices fresh into English, the power of raw experience honestly expressed, and he wanted to put a book together. Since then, we’ve worked together in shaping the anthology, and making sure a portion of the proceeds goes back into helping more young people write. In times when it is hard to find something to believe in, these young migrants show us a new, dynamic, multi-cultural England, and their work is full of joy as well as pain.”
Don Paterson, poetry editor, Picador said: “At a time when the UK is going through a radical crisis of identity, it’s good to be reminded of those national qualities in which we can continue to take pride. Despite the efforts of a few, we remain an inclusive and welcoming land: that these wonderful young poets have so readily found a tongue in this country, in this language, proves it beyond doubt. These powerfully moving verses often speak of great sadness, but in their clear-eyed bravery, their determination to turn often painful experience into beautifully memorable speech, they remind us of what poetry is for – and offer more cause for optimism than any other book you’ll read this year.”