keys alongside a ride on Coney Island
and in other news...
my weekend paper reported that one of the UK exam boards (responsible - along with other exam boards - for public Grade 11 school exams) has banned an anthology of poetry from its curriculum because a poem has been deemed "dangerous". Its a poem by Carol Ann Duffy which expresses anger, frustration and intention to go out with a bread knife and "change the world".
Given that I think there are some films and computer games which may have a negative impact on the behaviour of children and young people, I suppose I have to acknowledge that there may room for debate. Theres almost always room for debate.
But this decision seems to me to be both stuff and nonsense.
Though Carol Ann Duffy is one of my favourite poets, I didn't know the poem in question.
Here it is:
Education for Leisure
Today I am going to kill something. Anything.
I have had enough of being ignored and today
I am going to play God. It is an ordinary day,
a sort of grey with boredom stirring in the streets.
I squash a fly against the window with my thumb.
We did that at school. Shakespeare. It was in
another language and now the fly is in another language.
I breathe out talent on the glass to write my name.
I am a genius. I could be anything at all, with half
the chance. But today I am going to change the world.
Something's world. The cat avoids me. The cat
knows I am a genius, and has hidden itself.
I pour the goldfish down the bog. I pull the chain.
I see that it is good. The budgie is panicking.
Once a fortnight, I walk the two miles into town
for signing on. They don't appreciate my autograph.
There is nothing left to kill. I dial the radio
and tell the man he's talking to a superstar.
He cuts me off. I get our bread-knife and go out.
The pavements glitter suddenly. I touch your arm.
Apart from meriting inclusion in the school curriculum because it is such a good poem, it seems to me that it would also be an ideal focus for classroom discussion of violence, anger, frustration, education, being an aggressor or a victim on the street.... And shouldn't education involve relating literature to life and relating experience to the curriculum... and...?
Anyway, the wonderful Carol Ann has written a poem in response to this decision, published for the first time in the paper last weekend (The Guardian, Saturday Sept. 6, 2008):
Mrs Schofield's GCSE
You must prepare your bosom for his knife,
said Portia to Antonio in which
of Shakespeare's Comedies? Who killed his wife,
insane with jealousy? And which Scots witch
knew Something wicked this way comes? Who said
Is this a dagger which I see? Which Tragedy?
Whose blade was drawn which led to Tybalt's death?
To whom did dying Caesar say Et tu? And why?
Something is rotten in the state of Denmark - do you
know what this means? Explain how poetry
pursues the human like the smitten moon
above the weeping, laughing earth; how we
make prayers of it. Nothing will come of nothing:
speak again. Said by which King? You may begin.
is she just wonderful, or what?
"how poetry pursues the human like the smitten moon
above the weeping, laughing earth" - isn't that extraordinary and magical use of words?