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Ennis school turns to poetry to process effects of pandemic

STUDENTS in Ennis are making their voices heard about the effect Covid-19 has had on their lives as part of a poetry initiative.
Coláiste Muire recently awarded prizes to staff and students who had taken part in a poetry competition around the theme of Covid-19 organised by the school’s guidance counsellor Fiona Christie.
She explained the endeavour was organised as part of her role in supporting the well being of students at the school.
The prize giving event was held virtually as celebrations took place across the country for Poetry Day Ireland.
“This cross curricular guidance counselling/wellbeing/English initiative was run across the whole school and the response was just overwhelming from both students and staff,” she said.
“The aim of this was to capture the student voice around Covid, the student voice is very important.
“By inviting students to pen a poem, I hoped they would share their experiences with us so that their voices could be heard. And it is only when we are heard that we can begin to heal.
“We know that the lives of our young people have been particularly turbulent over the last 14 months as Covid-19 secured its worldwide grip.
“By capturing students’ voices in this creative endeavour we hope to hear the students and help them heal and also give them confidence and develop in them a sense of value, that all their voices are of value.”
She stressed the importance of creativity in promoting positive emotions, health and well being.
“Creative endeavours are a wonderful way to support and facilitate this, and it can be anything from cooking and singing, to writing and programming.
“It reduces stress and it even improves our immune system. When we are creative, the brain in fact slows down so that rational thoughts are formed.
“In addition, huge amounts of endorphins are released which give us a natural high. It’s also great fun,” she enthused.
“People experience positive moods, such as joy and happiness when they are creative. When we are creative we become lost in the activity because it requires focus and concentration and you become absorbed in the activity.
“It is difficult to multi-task, for example you can’t paint and be on the phone at the same time. It is actually a sort of ‘active mindfulness’.”
Awards on the night were presented in three categories, Best Staff Poem, Best Junior Poem and Best Senior Poem.
The award for best staff poem went to music teacher Carmel Griffin for her poem “The Dream Team”.
According to Ms Christie the poem “captures the essence and the intricacies of online teaching and learning during lockdown”.
Best Junior Poem went to “We Didn’t Start Covid” by second-year students Isabella Danaher.
“The poem is free form and fast paced. It reflects the teenage experience in today’s world. It’s edgy, current and has strong female sentiments,” said Ms Christie.
“Overcoming Corona” by fifth year student Julia Wiechcinska won the senior category.
Ms Christie explained, “In this poem, the poet personifies Covid. It is the voice of the virus that is speaking. It describes hauntingly, how it locks itself around heartbeats and tastes the fear of its victims as it winds its poison beneath their skin.
“It is dark, cruel and the tone is macabre. However, the tone you will notice changes completely once the virus meets Elpis. Elpis being the Greek goddess of hope. This allusion transforms the poem from one of heartlessness to one of hopefulness.”
Miss Christie acknowledged the support of school principal Jean Pound, wellbeing co-ordinator Finola Howard and deputy principals Mrs Ní Mhuirí and Ms Lydon for their continued support.
She also paid tribute poet Marie Haugh from Doonbeg for facilitating the judging of this competition and all the students and staff who took the time to create “such moving and hopeful poems”.

by Jessica Quinn

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