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.

Thursday 19 March 2009

The backlash to dumbing down in education begins?

The backlash against dumbing down (DD) seems to be taking shape. University academics have presented a 500 page dossier to an MPs' inquiry complaining about DD and Manchester Grammar is pulling out of GCSEs because of DD. Where this will end up nobody knows but action needs to happen.

Imagine how in 2048 - when a lot of today's graduates will be hitting retirement age - this generation will reflect back on what we did to our education system in the 90s and noughties...

...and they'll be stymied because they won't have the analytical tools to work out where it all went wrong.

It's WUC time. WAKE UP CALL!

Wednesday 18 March 2009

Shhhh... Sony Reader spotted on the tube!

I did my daily scan of fellow tube travellers the other day. What are you wearing? Who's got a seat? Who's looking at me? (Well, you do don't you?) What are you reading? And there in the middle of the left hand row of seats (I was standing) was a young bloke reading from his eBook. Clearly an early adopter, this Gucci glasses scruff-head was flaunting his technology for all to see. His styled, dress-down, geek look may not have been a great advert for those other passengers entertaining the idea of getting an eBook, or eReader, but this was a first. A humanoid prepared to do the daily jostle with a sleek piece of 21st century reading kit. It is only a matter of time until the tubes will be full of them. The next breakthrough will be when I see 3 or more in a carriage.

I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday 11 March 2009

The Swimming Pool

There's silly talk about returning to the womb.
That's not for me.
But as we learn more about our pre-birth existence,
The imagination expands;
Empathy engorges.

The low hum of the swimming pool heating system,
The smell of chlorine and clammy heat,
Mixes with watery echoes and excited pupil voices,
Sending this spectator into his swimming pool reverie.