Sunday 13 December 2009

Bushes and Bans

I usually prefer the keep any christmassy stuff until the week of the 25th, but the girls were determined to do some decorating. We decided this year to abandon the whole tree thing (after the very expensive rooted tree bought last year died when planted out) and have gone for a holly bush, which has just lights and the collection of animals decorating it.

On a completely non Christmas topic I got my regular e-mail from Spiked today which included this interesting article about the banning of a poem by Carol Ann Duffy. The Assessment and Qualifications Alliance has decided to remove one of her poems from an anthology studied by GCSE students. Apparently the imagery was considered potentially dangerous, that some people might be upset by it and some teachers may be uncomfortable with the subject matter. The article concludes with the idea that many great works of literature have been banned and "Great literature challenges our assumptions and forces us to rethink the world around us and to se it in a new light, to sharpen our moral and aesthetic judgement. These are the works most worth studying in our schools and universities, the ones that can most help the younger generation to grow into responsible adults."
At the risk of being deliberately contrary I would like to hope that being banned has had a much more positive effect on this poem. I hope it means that young people all over the country have read the poem with renewed interest and probably got far more out of it now. It has always seemed obvious to me that the quickest way to kill a piece of literature stone dead is to put it on an exam syllabus and require people to study it. I kind of wish the AQA would ban a few more things and really get the nation reading again.

Anyway, judge for yourself. The text is available online in many places to I assume it is ok to quote in full.

Education for Leisure by Carol Ann Duffy

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.

1 comment:

  1. As with all banned literature future generations will laugh at what screwy brains we must have had to ban this. And, as you say, banning it guarantees it a much wider audience.


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