Thursday, 26 March 2009

The heart of poetry

The Sunday Times have a poetry competition called 'Off by Heart'. It's rationale is based on an attempt to inspire children with the joy of poetry by encouraging the rote learning of poems. The competition goes against the grain of many contemporary educational trends and should be applauded for that reason alone. Here is journalist Daisy Goodwin's pitch:
Off by Heart is an attempt to revive the tradition of parlour poetry - to make poetry a public delight rather than a purely private pleasure. If you learn poetry as a child, it stays with you for life - having great poetry stored in your head adds lustre to the good times and consolation to the bad times in life.
Great pitch. I look forward to watching the competition.

I find the aversion to rote learning in the UK education system both irrational and counter-productive. More on this potential rant another time.

AA Gill has thrown his hat into the Sunday Times poetry ring and penned one of the most refreshing articles I think you'll ever read on the subject of poetry. I hope, like me, you will be inspired to dig out some old favourites and perhaps discover some new ones. Please pass on this article to your friends. Gill, by reflecting on his own prose and his 1,500 words a day habit, battles to define the difference between the journalist's wordcraft and that of the poet's:
I reckon I can make a craftsmanlike job of most wordy things, from a shopping list to a eulogy. But I have no idea, not the faintest inkling, of how a poem is made... I have yet to hear a convincing explanation of where poetry comes from and how it arrives, but I do know it is the highest calling of a cerebral, emotional, aesthetic existence.
Wow! Gill describes poetry as the "cornerstone of our civilisation" and I would have say that his article goes a long way in explaining why he might just have a point.

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