In these uncertain times when it’s hard for some people to distinguish between a poem and a random act of violence, it is comforting to know that we have the Assessment and Qualifications Alliance (AQA) to protect us from harm. You might recall that the AQA made the decision to pulp an anthology of poems for an English Literature examination because it contained a poem, Education for Leisure by Carol Ann Duffy, in which a teenager flushes a goldfish down a toilet and then carries a bread knife onto the streets. I need hardly warn you not to read the poem, which comes at the end of the linked article. One teenager made the mistake of reading it and, not having a goldfish to hand, found himself hauling a box of breaded haddock from the freezer. He flushed away a fish and then attacked the family washing line with a pizza cutter. This is a mild case but constitutes conclusive evidence (if such were needed) that teenage poetry readers are the main cause of everything currently wrong with this country.
Since the anthology was pulped and the offending poem removed from the school syllabus, knife-crime figures have plummeted and there has been an otherwise incomprehensible increase in the world’s goldfish population. Despite this, recent attempts have been made to persuade the AQA to reinstate the poem. I’m relieved to note that the AQA has – so far- ignored such attempts.
However, Magma fears that Duffy’s poem is not alone. Many other poems exist which, if read by unsuspecting schoolchildren, would surely unleash a frenzy of antisocial behaviour. The AQA needs to be made aware of those poems so it can take appropriate action for all our sakes. One thing is certain: today’s poetry-reading adolescents become tomorrow’s deviant adults. We must make sure that poems taught in our classrooms are uniformly bland and as irrelevant to their readers as possible.
Therefore, we have decided to hold a competition. We want you to suggest a poem that should be banned from appearing in the school syllabus and explain why. The best entry will receive an un-pulped copy of the anthology (including ‘Education for Leisure’) and a year’s subscription to Magma (if you are already a subscriber, we’ll extend your subscription for a year).
Here are the rules:
- Post your entry as a comment below, comprising (a) the title of the poem, (b) a link to the poem, if the poem is online, and (c) your reasons for wanting it banned, which can include short quotes from the poem. But please don’t post the poem’s full text.
- Entries should be a maximum of 300 words.
- Only one entry is allowed per person.
- Entries are accepted from anywhere in the world.
- A display of AQA-style bureaucratic language and/or reasoning is encouraged.
- Members of the Magma board and their families are not eligible to win the competition, although they are free to enter for fun.
- Judges will be Mark McGuinness, Rob A Mackenzie and Laurie Smith.
- Deadline for entries is midnight GMT, Saturday 28th November 2009.
- The winner will be announced on or before Wednesday 2nd December 2009.