Disciplines of learning

[first published at Normblog by philosopher Norman Geras.] There’s a column by Simon Armitage here headed ‘Poetry should be subversive’. I started reading the piece thinking ‘No, it shouldn’t’, because I don’t believe there’s anything (in the way of political direction or character) that poetry should be, or for that matter literature more generally. Anyway, not only does Simon Armitage not say what he is billed as saying, he doesn’t say anything remotely resembling it. All he says is that when he was young he ‘found refuge in poetry, and thought of it as an alternative to the mainstream’; and that he thinks children should be ‘allowed to find the poems that fit their voices or appeal to their imaginations’. This seems an eminently sensible suggestion, but isn’t the same as favouring poetry which is subversive.

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About Ken Parish

Ken Parish is a legal academic, with research areas in public law (constitutional and administrative law), civil procedure and teaching & learning theory and practice. He has been a legal academic for almost 20 years. Before that he ran a legal practice in Darwin for 15 years and was a Member of the NT Legislative Assembly for almost 4 years in the early 1990s.
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Robert
9 years ago

What’s this “Author click here if republication unwanted” rubbish? If they haven’t given you permission to republish their work, why not post a brief summary and a link to their full post?

Robert
9 years ago

If the goal is “opening up the blogosphere”, then I think excerpt-and-link is the way to go (even if you technically have a Creative Commons right to republish) because it encourages people to visit the original source and perhaps bookmark their blog.

TimT
9 years ago

Yeah I think that ‘Poetry should be subversive’ was pretty much tacked on by a thoughtless Guardian subbie.

Usually it’s those who self-consciously set out to write ‘subversive’ poems that are the most tiresomely conformist anyway. The poet as subversive is the predominant figure in modern poetry, has been since at least Oscar Wilde and the fin du siecle poets.

The suggestion that large chunks of poetry should be read aloud in schools seems to me rather sensible actually. For one thing it engages kids in a whole lot of ways – clear speaking, rhetorical skills, maintaining a dramatic character, etc – while avoiding the dreaded ‘pick this quote out, and that quote, and that quote there’ approach. Strikes me as being an excellent way of getting kids to engage with a whole piece while not boring them with mind-numbing analysis.