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“Hey up, I'm Rhythmical Mike and I’ve been given a question by our Independent Thinking friends on how to make poetry more engaging and interesting for young people. So, I’m going to give you a bit of a background of who I am and why I steer towards poetry!

I think it's important for young people to consider poetry as a way of expressing themselves and using it as a cathartic tool and, also, I’m going to give you a bit of a go-away-try-it-out exercise which has an 100% success rate- I’ve been to prisons, primaries, all over and it's been well received so I’m going to show you all!

Now, I did not do well in my education. I got asked to leave my primary school which takes some doing, went on to secondary school and the same happened there and I flopped it. The only thing I left school with was a certificate to tell me I’m dyslexic so that was all I knew about myself – that I’m stupid, I can't spell, I can't write, I hate poetry and just to stay away from reading and writing altogether.

Cathartic and Beautiful

So, I went on my own journey, and I worked on the farm, I did rubbish jobs like working in Thornton's and then went travelling. Now, while I was traveling that's where I discovered my passion. So, a few years into my travels and I was in South Africa - I got a phone call from my dad who explained I’d lost a friend back home to a knife crime incident. When I received this phone call, I took the day off and took my pad and pen with me and, just went and wrote for the whole day – yet I’d never wrote a thing before, I just stuck well away from it. But this was different because it mattered to me, and it was something that meant a lot to me.

So, I went and started writing - it was the most cathartic, beautiful experience I’d ever been through and that was me then as I felt like I discovered a superpower. So, I was going around South Africa and other places just writing down my thoughts and feelings, going back into my past and writing from that again.

Eventually, I came back from travelling but this time I was equipped with a passion. So, I got home, and I performed a poem to my dad in the kitchen and it was the first time ever we felt we properly connected. He was asking genuine questions of this new interest that I’d got and, from then I started performing on different stages

all over the UK and sharing stages with people that I’ve always looked up to and never imagined meeting such as Rizzle Kicks, Russell Brand, The Streets and going to festivals.

Poetry Saved Me

Poetry, honestly, I can only say, saved me. It came to me in a moment but then started taking me all over places and connecting with people over a common interest.

When I go into schools I try and express how we could better our poetry experience and be quite creative with our lesson planning and learning. My experience from school was analysing old ancient artists, which felt quite contrived and didn't relate much to me.

It's my belief that if we can get young people engaging, using their own experiences, own words and own stories with poetry then later down the line when we get them to analyse it and look at it and look at older artists, they're going to have a more genuine appreciation for the art of writing and poetry.

Here's an exercise I take everywhere with me, so I’m going to get a helper on the bus and we're going to get creating! What we're going to use is paper, some scissors, a pen, a glue stick and a phone!

So, what we're going to do is look through artists and lyrics that we like from different musicians and, take them lyrics to create a poem - it's called form poetry. We're going to write three lines each so, we're going to have six lyrics between us. Now we have three lyrics each we are going to cut them out.

A Poem Out of Nothing

Now what we're going to do is take each lyric that we've got and we're going to fold them into tiny little squares! If you're working in a primary school, you've got to let them know that it's a race! Now we've got all our lyrics, we're going to put them all together - if you're working in a team of five that should be 15 lyrics all together and you put them all in and you jumble them all up, and then take one at random.

We look at it and then we stick it at the top of another page. Now, we go in that order, and we keep picking one and, sticking one, picking one and sticking one guess what happens - you'll see.  You get a poem out of this, let’s hear the masterpiece!

What we think we become,

make your own destiny proud,

we're the wild youth,

we are the reckless

there ain't no sunshine when she's gone,

so, smile like you mean it,


and that is how you make a poem out of nothing! So, when you've got those reluctant students in there who don't want to perform for you – there’s a simple idea!”

You can check out all the other 'tracks' on our CPD Jukebox by clicking here.

Call us on +44(0)1267 211432 or email for a chat about working with Mikey and for details on how to save money when you book.

About the author

Mikey Markham

Mikey Markham

Mikey - AKA Rhythmical Mike - is a performance poet and artist who has first-hand experience of the best and the worst of what the education system can do. He is in demand for his work with some of our most challenging young people, helping them find their voice and purpose.

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