During the week after April break, the return to school was anything but mundane at Montrose. For the second consecutive year, we welcomed back Sarah de Nordwall, our Bard-in-Residence from London. Throughout the week, she led classes and workshops for students and faculty, performing her poems and inspiring each student and teacher to write their own.
Abigail Finnerty ‘19 enjoyed the Bard’s visit and the chance to develop her own writing. She shared: “I was really impressed with the Bard. She had such a calming presence, her poems were really well-written, and you could tell that they all held a special place in heart. The brief visit I had with the Bard taught me to be confident in my creative writing, and that self-expression is essential to grow and develop as a person.”
Upper School English Teacher Mrs. Whitlock added: “The Bard has the gift of magic; that’s why she’s worth a king’s ransom. We see that magic through the gift of inspiration that she reveals through her poetry, and we see her gift for intuition in the way she reads each individual and group to whom she speaks. She seems to know what needs healing and clarity. That gift of healing is magical to experience but is rooted in her deep faith. She is attuned to inner truth, and she teaches us how to reach down and find that eternal spring within!”
Sarah’s poetry readings took my breath away. One poem she shared especially resonated with students. In her poem “Poetry Opens the World,” she explores how poetry allows us to discover deeper insights about ourselves and overcome the “monster in the cellar.” When Sarah read this poem in the workshop that she led for the Juniors,she initiated a discussion among my classmates to discern what they thought the monster in the cellar could mean. Every girl had a different insight to share about what the monster stands for in her life—perhaps our deepest insecurities or fears, or maybe internal anger or confusion. This poem is both thought-provoking and encouraging through lines such as “make room for more insights,” and “release the catch/let the monster hatch/he cannot spell your doom.”
Olivia Hastie ‘18 said: “I loved the Bard’s visit! What spoke to me most was a conversation I had with her. She had mentioned her travels to Pakistan, and I had told her my story about my biological father being from there. She inspired me to write more about how I felt about my past. When she performed ‘Poetry Opens the World,’ I realized that every person has so much to give to the world through art.”
Yvonne Niebuhr ‘18 added: “It was nice to take time out of our day to think about the more artistic side of things. I think her visit and the workshops were good opportunities for self-reflection.”
Towards the end of the week, I sat down with the Bard to ask her about what she has been doing in the year since she was last at Montrose. She certainly had a lot to share. “I was invited to the Academic Conference on Ethics in London,” she said. “I was there to perform my poems in between speakers and discussion, and I found it amazing that I could use the beauty of my poems to comment on the arguments. I think it brought an element of peace and unity to the conference. And that’s what I love about it: It brings people together.”
Her other endeavors have varied, but have been just as interesting. Sarah said: “I did the voice-overs for animations that the London Institute of Contemporary Christianity, and that was quite fun. I got to record at the trendy recording studio in Soho, the Jungle Studio. And it was fun to do the voice-overs for the cute little animations that the London Institute of Contemporary Christianity makes to explain the transforming effect of worship on life.” She later showed me one of these animations. The animated people rushed around as Sarah narrated about the hectic busyness of each day and the rest that Sunday, the day of worship, brings.
In addition to these larger projects and events, Sarah has been doing what she calls “iceberg work.” She said: “When you go through life, you don’t just skate along the surface; you have to take care of the icebergs underneath. You know, the things you need to take care of so that you can focus on the other things you are working on. For me, this meant I needed to hire my friend to be my assistant for a time; she helped me work on IT, and things like setting up my Facebook. I also made time to visit my mother, and I found it very rewarding to spend more time with older people. My mother is at a home that is especially for former show-business people, and they take excellent care of her there. It’s really quite fun to be able to visit with her and the other residents there.”
Throughout the year, Sarah has also been working to develop her Bard School abroad, and she has begun a program called “Release Your Inner Bard.” With this project, she runs workshops around London, in pubs, churches, and other places, to help people create their own poems and share them with others. The Bard is also working on her next book of poetry, called The World is Shining.
At the end of our interview, Sarah reflected on the importance of poetry in personal discovery and development. She said, “I think it’s when we hit the worst points in our lives, that rock-bottomness, that we become ready, and we can discover incredible things about ourselves through poetry. I think the Western world is a culture that is afraid of crisis, but I have found that poetry has also allowed me to become less afraid of moments of crisis, because it is in those moments that I am most open.”
I think I speak for all in the Montrose community when I say that I am so grateful for the Bard visiting us once again. When she shared her poems and ideas, I felt inspired to try my hand at writing my own. Later during the week, she took the time to listen to my poem and share her thoughts and feedback, encouraging me to pursue poetry even more. And when I shared another piece, something personal that I had written, her encouragement meant so much to me. Since then, I have used poetry as a new way to positively channel my thoughts and emotions.
Thank you, Sarah, for inspiring me and others to find our inner poets and to see that poetry truly opens the world.