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ENGLISH NEWSLETTER ARTICLES

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  • Thursday 3rd March 2022 World Book Day

    Published 30/03/22

    World Book Day, the most important day on the English department’s calendar: especially when it’s the 25th anniversary!

    From the moment you walked into the school it was clear the World Book Day bonanza had already begun! The first activity, by the main reception, was to match the prop to the book, and we had everything from Harry Potter and the Philosopher's stone by J.K. Rowling to Ratburger by David Walliams; these childhood classics that you never tire of was the perfect way to engage and bring together all the members of our school community. Throughout the day, all students had the chance to put their knowledge to the test as each year had a quiz tailored to their understanding of the writing world, and it is opportunities like this that really encourage self-expression and help students to be more confident, particularly in their literary skills. We feel that this is a key point to have in mind when planning events like these: what will the students obtain from this experience? 

    Now, we cannot go any further without elaborating on the magnificent costumes that were so wonderfully executed by the Year 7 and 8 students and our own Year 12 prefects. The time was set for 10:15 for the photo that took characters from every piece of literature in existence. A collision of worlds brought a happy, cheerful school community together! It was a superb atmosphere that somehow made the most menacing book characters smile for once, and that is coming from a certain Miss Agatha Trunchbull! Even the department teachers dressed up too: we had Mr Griffin, Mr Husbands and Mr Otley as the Three Musketeers and Mrs Stoddard as Mary Poppins, to name a few! (See pic, above). Besides this, there were also a variety of competitions to take part in: guess the teacher’s costume, a 10 word ‘Post-It note Story’ writing competition and the Ultimate Book Cover challenge. Leo Demyan in 7STA won our ultimate book reading challenge with one of the most creative pictures we had ever seen!

    Amazingly, Neewa Subba from 7MAM got every single answer right on the picture quiz!

    I also had the joy of reading everyone’s ‘Post-It note Stories’, and really struggled to narrow it down to my favourites as they were all so brilliantly crafted! A big well done to Isabella Hugget in 8RAS- it was an extremely emotive piece of writing in just a few words showing just how powerful words can be. It is truly amazing to witness the talent of our students and the sheer enthusiasm and passion they have for these events!

    On Friday 4th March, we were privileged to have a Zoom call with the wonderful Manjeet Mann, who shared her journey of discovery as a writer. Her story shows how English and writing is not limiting; it actually can provide you as well as others with so many different opportunities and take you anywhere you want it to!

    Above all, “Drop Everything and Read!” was truly the icing on the cake of this day, allowing you to take a minute to relax, to just simply be on your own with your thoughts and a book in order to have a much-needed break. It is so important to encourage students to read nowadays and “Drop Everything and Read!” is the first stepping stone in the ocean of joy that you can find within the world of a book!

    A big thank you to the English Department and Mrs Carey the Librarian for organising the day.

    Rachel Smith and Maximilian Armstrong-Moulinie
    Year 12 English Prefects

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  • The Elephant Vanishes

    Published 18/11/21

    Following our study of Haruki Murakami's short story collection, The Elephant Vanishes, in our HL English class, I recommended that students should read an interview with Murakami and Mieko Kawakami in which she questions his representation of his female characters. In response to the interview and her own reading, Alison Balint reflects on his work from a feminist perspective in this thought provoking article.

    Ms Hanington 

     

    In an interview with Mieko Kawakami,  celebrated Japanese author  Haruki Murakami  discusses the feminist critiques of his work, which are often considered to objectify women. There are numerous interpretations of Murakami's work that view his portrayal of women as overtly sexual and not full characters, but rather as mere catalysts for the progression of the (usually) male character.

    I think what's most striking about Murakami's responses is his unwillingness/ inability to recognise the social context of his objectification of women. While he may not necessarily intend to portray women in a purely sexual/ non-sentient way, that is a very common interpretation/ impact of his work, and yet he continues to assert the fact that he merely portrays his characters as human beings, who happen to be male or female. 

    I definitely am a bit more unsure of where I stand on a feminist interpretation of Murakami's work, due to the fact that he seems to harbour an apathy towards his inadvertent display of traditional gender roles. But this perceived 'apathy' may be a positive thing, in the sense that he simply chooses to write what he wants and feels is true, not beholden to the pressures of political correctness. From my own inherently Western and feminist perspective/bias, the concept of valuing a lack/ unawareness of political correctness feels very foreign, but perhaps there is more to be gained when accepting that there is no way to justify a text making me feel uncomfortable. A freedom, perhaps, that we have erased from our liberal society: discomfort. 

    Speaking about his characters, Murakami states that 'on a fundamental level, before I see them as a man or woman, I see them as a human being', but I think that personally, I would be unable to not consider a person's gender, due to how deeply my gender has impacted my life and personal experiences. The idea that we can divorce a person of something so defining as gender seems almost dehumanising and reckless to me, on a personal level. It would be as if I were disregarding someone's very essence. And yet, Murakami challenges what defines an individual, and how an individual chooses to make sense of the world around them. I think that because we are so rarely confronted with texts that challenge our perception so deeply, there is the possibility for an immediate disconnect with Murakami's work, but instead, we react very emotionally, be it positively, negatively, or somewhere in between.

    Due to the lack of continuous action or events, Murakami's stories may initially appear simplistic, but there is always a feeling of something beneath the surface that we just haven't grasped yet. And Murakami's refusal to explain, or even explore his characters seems fundamentally autonomous, as if he is flagrantly disregarding an established social convention. In our society, we constantly demand explanations and purpose, and through his withholding of this, Murakami not only shocks, but provides us with the rare opportunity to form intensely personal interpretations.

    What a great read!

    Alison Balint, Year 13

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  • National Poetry Day 2021 ~ Poetry Competition

    Published 21/10/21

    Poetry judges were very impressed and could say on behalf of the English department that they were also delighted with the vast number of entries to the poetry competition with pupils from all across different year groups and houses battling for the podium and the number one spot. We congratulate the number one spot (Tara Kale) for their very intricate and thought-provoking response on the theme of Choice, which discussed human judgement when it comes to preserving the earth and the distribution of our natural resources. Is it fair for others to belittle our motherland? Or for others to diminish the efforts of humanitarian activists in an attempt to save the planetary rock on which more than 7 billion people live on?

    Second place was nabbed by Jessica Davis in Year 8 due to her amazing use of language and poetic techniques which reminded us of the poet Year 12 Higher English is studying, Seamus Heaney, for its motif of nature. A very impressive piece of writing especially for someone in such a young year group. The short, snappy sentences used really created a sense of urgency and hammered home the anxiety that sometimes comes with making a decision.

    Coming in at third, Mya Fewell (Year 11) wrote an allegorical poem. The powerful use of a semantic field of fire really made her poem stand out. We also liked how the reader was forced to reflect on the consequences of their choices through the use of rhetorical questions. A line from the poem we particularly liked was the idea that “words could be soaked in venom, dripping down my neck and into the ground” as it created (idk what I’m trying to say here icl).

    We judged the entries on their unique and interesting perspectives on Choice and what it meant to them, and how that translated into their poems. Whilst we were thoroughly impressed by the top three entries, we would also like to give a special mention to one poem which had a completely unique approach, and we thought deserved to be recognised even though it didn’t make the top three. This poem wasn’t lengthy and grandiose in size but packed a punch in as little as eight words clearly proving that a poem doesn’t have to be the size of an epic but depict, or in this instance think creatively, of the issue and topic they are willing to address. The poem read as follows: “My choice is to not write a poem”

    Alexandru Ionita and Anya Scothern, Year 12

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  • Lecture with Questions & Answers from Sarah Lasoye, ex-BGS published poet!​​​​​​​

    Published 30/09/21

    From the faded hues of her past, to the electric present and palpable future, Sarah Lasoye’s writing explores the boundaries of memories and experience through abstract and narrative poems without losing touch with the values that we should all hold dear.

    The fantastic poet and alumna of Bexley Grammar came on Thursday 23rd of September to read and discuss poems from her debut collection of poems (“Fovea / Ages Ago''), which depict a timeline of her young life and the transition into adulthood through abstract and narrative stories in which she appears as vulnerable to the reader as possible. The sharing of inquisitive and personal contemplations on her childhood and growth as a person would remain a recurring theme throughout the first few poems where she starts the book discussing her impulsive need of lying to which she reflects on today as being a stairwell to discovering her true identity and comically saying it served as a mask hiding her evil spirit of being a child. After reciting a brief assembly of poems from her own book, Sarah Lasoye shared her experiences of talking to prosperous poets and how their guidance has had a tremendous impact on the way she fabricates poems nowadays.

    She spoke of how she writes her poems, almost the opposite of the typical, solitary occupation that we often associate with writing; Lasoye revels in the inspiration of being in a communal space, taking in the mood and the atmosphere, always sourcing ideas from the urban environment around her. This is integral to her as a person, informing her view of the world and thus influencing her writing, leading to a wild array of poems covering each part of life and the limitless boundaries of our recollection in her chapbook.

     

    Do you feel it is important, when writing, to have the audience at the front of your mind?

    Yes and no.  Sarah wanted to convey that the key idea when writing is not all the people who read your work will love it, in fact, some of them will hate it.  But she didn’t feel that this negative feedback was as important as we might think it to be; if you love writing and feel that it is your true purpose, no amount of cynical opinions can sway you from your true audience. And for Sarah, these are her close friends.

     

    Given that you take great inspiration from public spaces, how did the lockdown affect your writing?

    In isolation Sarah still met up with her friends over zoom, working together and reading and reviewing each other's work, so she still had that feeling of community to fuel her writing. This method of support was something that they had done before lockdown, retaining a sense of normality, but it helped her to tailor her work to an audience of like-minded people. Sometimes they gave back constructive criticism, that Sarah could then decide whether or not to take on board; she feels that there are some essential concepts in her writing that no amount of criticism could bring her to remove them. 

     

    Lasoye also addressed how finally being able to call herself a poet was a great mental milestone and wished she would've done so earlier, as many young aspiring poets and general people give up their dream of writing because they mistake the word to be of immense worth in the literal community (which it can be) and them not being worthy enough to attribute it to themselves, when in reality anyone can call themselves a poet and write literary pieces with just pen and paper, leaving readers to think that maybe her collection of poems could also serve as a symbol of inspiration to others who may think that they’re not good enough to write because they aren’t entitled poets or have a profession in such department. Sarah Lasoye talked about how she herself wasn’t even close to a career path related to poetry in school, as she graduated with a biomedical science degree from university, clearly surpassing the social misunderstanding and going on to become a published artist with poems she would write in her spare time.

    Finally, she showed the crowd some poems from her also published friends which were more “anarchist” and “wild” (as described by the poet herself!).

    This makes her writing what it is, a gloriously abstract amalgamation that speaks true to who she is: a wonderful poet and a truly inspiring, charismatic individual.

    Thank you to Mrs Quinton for arranging this fascinating poetry reading and Q & A session.

    Alex Ionita and Max Armstrong-Moulini 
    Year 12 English Prefects

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  • The English Department celebrates International Women’s Day

    Published 08/03/21

    International Women’s Day is celebrated on the 8th March. On that day, we celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements that women have accumulated for decades. March 8th is a significant day for women as it reminds us of how everything began. Women’s Day started as a labour movement. In 1908, 15,000 women marched through New York City demanding shorter working hours, better pay and the right to vote. The Socialist Party of America declared the first National Woman's Day in 1909.

    A few students were asked “What does International Women’s Day mean to you?” and these were the responses:

    “International Women’s Day is not just about embodying the empowerment that being a woman creates. It is a day that brings a sense of proudness and joy in the realisation that women have come so far and will continue to do so. The day highlights our accomplishments no matter their race or sexuality or beliefs.” - Jada Asraf-Clarke, 12CSL

    “International Women’s Day is a time for reflection of the past to see how far we have come since then. Additionally, it is a day of appreciation for Women, and a day to make ourselves known to struggles that women have had to face since they had no rights. However, there is still a lot that needs to be changed in regards to the gender gap, and equality in several countries around the world” - Oluwatofunmi Onakoya, 12CSL

     “International Women’s Day is important for recognising the women in our society, and our world, and their value, which is often disregarded. It’s also quite sad because it highlights where we have failed to account for women and how we have to constantly remind ourselves to accommodate them. Its significance is twofold. On the one hand, it shows how we haven’t given enough thought to women, yet on the other hand, through acknowledging this, we are on the way to securing women’s rights and equality.” - Joy Hui,12JMB

    Black writers and their books for you to have on your reading list:

    • I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
    • Noughts & Crosses by Malorie Blackman
    • The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House by Audre Lorde
    • The Color Purple by Alice Walker
    • Swing Time by Zadie Smith
    • Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
    • Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde

    Emily Falegan, English Prefect

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  • Oxford University Virtual Open Day

    Published 01/03/21

    On Saturday, three BGS English students (Jacob, Sasha and I) were up extremely early at 11 o’clock, ready to attend a virtual open day offered by Oxford University’s English department.

    It began, as many of these events do, with a short but useful introduction to English at Oxford, from which we came away with newfound knowledge of the course there, as well as a feel for how we would be taught, and some of the extra opportunities we would be able to take advantage of. One of these was their incredible library, renowned for its historic literary treasures like the letters of Percy Shelley.  Then came the main event: two separate lectures from lecturers at the Oxford colleges. 

    The first was a unique approach to the study of Shakespeare, which focused not on the great writer himself, but his readers. We know how influential Shakespeare is now, but what about the England which existed centuries ago as he wrote? How prevalent and revered was he then? Using satirical pictures, hand-annotated notebooks and a publishing company selling their product with dubious marketing techniques 400 years ago, Shakespeare’s effect on the literary world was shown to be as important as it is today, with his works being widely studied and interpreted.

    After this dip into Elizabethan England, we jumped forward to the Victorian era, and to two of its famous writers, Arthur Conan Doyle and Oscar Wilde, and again looked deeper into how they were received by their audiences. The Sherlock Holmes novel The Sign of Four and Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray were both released at the same time (in the same magazine even) to the same Victorian society, but while Doyle’s was met with widespread acclaim, Wilde’s caused outright anger. Why did novels which both explored realism provoke such different reactions? Although many disliked the homoeroticism of The Picture of Dorian Gray, the question went far deeper morally. While one novel used detail quite obviously to create the classic detective feeling of mystery, the other subverted this to create an almost disturbing feeling of moral detachment in the midst of shocking events.

    The lunch break was meant to be an hour, but the lecturers were caught up with so many questions that the discussions carried on right through, the pair struggling to keep up with a hundred attendees who had just sat through two thought-provoking talks.

    After this was a quick introduction to the application process to Oxford University. This definitely reduced my worries at applying, with the aspects much clearer than before.

    Finally, there came a short Q&A with English students at Oxford, where we learnt some top-tips for interviews and got a flavour for the university, and we were nicely surprised to see an ex-BGS familiar face, Kate Leadbetter, answering some of the questions.

    Overall, it was an incredibly insightful experience. Thanks to Ms Stoddard for the opportunity.

    Lucas Zurdo, Year 12

     

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