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How To Use Poetry Against Racism: May Ayim and Philipp Khabo Koepsell

Form 6 and 7 pupils studying German joined with pupils from Oundle School to listen to Professor Sarah Colvin from Jesus College, Cambridge discuss how two German poets use poetry and performance to challenge racism as well as the broader question of whether poetry can ever hope to achieve such aims.

Professor Colvin began with the question, ‘why German’? The answers ranged from the fascination of German history, the wealth of its literature, the logic of the language and its grammatical complexity to the culture and the opportunity to travel.

Having shown clips of May Ayim and Philipp Khabo Keopsell performing selections from their work, Professor Colvin encouraged the students to consider the effect of body language alongside listening to the text itself.  They saw how performance poetry uses humour, enabling the audience to see something they may not have seen before. The performance poetry challenges us to ask who gets to say who or what is racist and helps to articulate a problem.

Pupils were then able to ask questions about the poems and about studying German and languages at university. Two current second year students answered questions about the year abroad, the amount of reading expected, learning a language from scratch and what aspect of the course they most enjoyed.

Form 6 pupils James said, “I found it a very useful opportunity not only to discover more about how the issue of racism is tackled in German poetry, but also to find out about studying languages at university.”

German at Oakham School is taught in a dynamic way throughout the School and resources are diverse.

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