Merissa Lawrence with headteacher Andy Johnson.

A year 11 Springwood High School pupil is celebrating after being named as one of the top young poetry reciters in the country. 

Merissa Lawrence won local and regional heats of the Poetry By Heart competition to reach the national finals, which should have taken place at London’s Tate Modern but were cancelled due to the pandemic. Instead, all 10 finalists were given awards. 

Contestants had to learn two poems, one from before 1914 and one after. Merissa chose The Passionate Shepherd to his love, by Christopher Marlowe, and Adlestrop, by Edward Thomas, and said the experience of learning and taking part in the competition had been memorable. 

“Initially I took part because I’m quite competitive,” said Merissa, who entered for the second year running.  

“To be honest I wasn’t all that enthusiastic about poetry at first, but I’ve come to learn about the beauty of it. I’ve realised that you can interpret a poem in so many different ways, and this varies from person  to person. Your perception of a poem can be portrayed through your own emotion, tone and gestures when you perform it.

“It’s another form of communication which can reveal many things to the reader, and it’s almost like a code which you choose how to decipher.” 

Merissa’s English teacher at the King’s Lynn school, Marina Morris, said she encouraged all her pupils to take part. 

“I love poetry and want to instil this love in my students. Merissa did well because she demonstrated a good understanding of both poems and communicated their meaning. She spoke superbly and had excellent presentation,” she and projecting confidence.”