1. Which Poem Would YOU Ban from the School Syllabus?

    Written by Rob Mackenzie at November 18, 2009 10:16

    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:

    1. 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.
    2. Entries should be a maximum of 300 words.
    3. Only one entry is allowed per person.
    4. Entries are accepted from anywhere in the world.
    5. A display of AQA-style bureaucratic language and/or reasoning is encouraged.
    6. Members of the Magma board and their families are not eligible to win the competition, although they are free to enter for fun.
    7. Judges will be Mark McGuinness, Rob A Mackenzie and Laurie Smith.
    8. Deadline for entries is midnight GMT, Saturday 28th November 2009.
    9. The winner will be announced on or before Wednesday 2nd December 2009.

32 responses to “Which Poem Would YOU Ban from the School Syllabus?”

  1. jenny harrow says:

    my poem to be decisively pulped would be DylanThomas’ do not go gently into the night…and the reason:
    i think, particularly with the ongoing swine flu epidemic and rising OAP population, people should be encouraged to lie down and give in. no more heroics or indoctrinating the young to take responsibility for the care of elders. Encouraging the nation to buck up, be healthy and look after ourselves is at best irresponsible, at worst dangerous.

  2. I’d ban the early manifestation of Goth poetry, FOR THE FALLEN by Lawrence Binyon, as it encourages people to die young and beautiful. The most pernicious section is “They shall grow not old as we that are left grow old…” Even worse it is read so solemnly at hundreds of Remembrance occasions all over the UK, and even broadcast on TV – reprehensible!

  3. Andy Jackson says:

    It is recommended that Andrew Marvell’s ‘To His Coy Mistress’ be removed from the English Literature syllabus with immediate effect.

    This poem may be deemed offensive on several counts; firstly, its advocacy of extra-marital sex seeks to undermine accepted values of family and decency; secondly, its glorification of necrophilia (‘worms shall try/That long preserv’d virginity’) and both the explicit and implicit references to female anatomy (‘Two hundred to adore each breast/But thirty thousand to the rest/An age at least to every part’) objectify women and contain misogynist overtones which are, at the very least, unhealthy; thirdly, the poem contains a blatant yet casually-expressed anti-semitic remark (‘Till the conversion of the Jews’), with hints of racial stereotypes in its questionable references to both India and the North of England (‘I by the tide/Of Humber would complain’).

    Even if we set these real concerns aside, however, it is the overall tone which raises the greatest alarm. The poem is a sordid entreaty to a female (possibly underage; the author does not specify) to surrender her virginity. This depiction of a predatory male pressuring a clearly reluctant young woman into sex smacks of date rape, and sends worrying signals to immature adolescents that such coercive behaviour is acceptable if couched in florid poetic terms.

    Poems like this are the thin end of the wedge – some modern poets have taken their lead from Marvell and used the poetic form as a kind of sexual grooming parlour (q.v. Roddy Lumsden’s ‘Against Naturism’ and virtually the entire canon of the execrable Sharon Olds). Marvell’s poem is not the worst of its kind, but it is a poem which should know better. It is a form of putative literary Rohypnol, and should not be considered fit and proper reading for young people or, indeed, impressionable adults.

  4. Ray Templeton says:

    I have been instructed to write and inform you that, effective from the date of your receipt of this communication, the poem by Ted Hughes entitled The Thought Fox must no longer be used for teaching purposes in your school. This pernicious work has been judged by a panel of carefully selected appointees to be unsafe, and is henceforth to be classified as Category Red: Extremely Hazardous. Be assured that this decision has been reached after very careful consideration, and a serious of rigorous experiments carried out under strictly controlled conditions. From these, it is apparent that The Thought Fox represents an insidious encouragement to conjure imaginary foxes. Young people, especially between the ages of 11 and 16 (i.e. Key Stages 3 and 4), have extremely vivid imaginations, and the beasts they invoke are likely to be far more dangerous than those imagined by responsible adults. I need hardly remind you of the possible repercussions of allowing the country to be over-run with phantasmal vulpine mammals. I have been advised by our legal department that while it is likely that the government’s ban on fox-hunting extends only to the pursuit of real animals, the legislation is less than 100% clear on this point and I am sure no school would wish to be the test case.

  5. Al says:

    Actually, I really can’t stand the turgid, wishy washy piece of neo-Romanticism that is ‘The Thought Fox’. Every year, another English teacher; every year, another promise of ‘a really exciting poem that’ll blow your mind’, etc. Every year, the bloody Thought Fox wheeled out again, as thrilling and vital as a moth eaten piece of taxidermy lost behind a stack of decades old Radio Times in a fading tea room in a small country town that tried – and failed – to build an entire tourist industry on an afternoon visit by a long dead and mercifully forgotten poet laureate. Words don’t exist to say how disappointing I find this poem, but let me try. English poetry’s ongoing obsession with limp, watercoloured rurality is an act of profoundly conservative auto-castration, and this rhetorically hackneyed and formally just plain dull poem is one of the worst examples of it.

    So how does it injure the nation’s youth? It restricts and excludes, narrowing the scope of visionary activity to imagining mammals, and pretending that the best possible place to do so is alone in a quiet little rural room. How many of its student readers find the first irrelevant, and are unable to experience the second? Most, I’d say. It is profoundly reductive, daring to celebrate the capturing of live imagination in dead ink as an achievement (Basil Bunting, W.S. Graham, so many others are so much more honest in their acceptance that poetry can never totally capture the world as we live it – even the Romantics that this dribble shamelessly apes acknowledged that words were failure as much as achievement).

    It understands what is captured in poetry as being purely alien, purely animal, affording the medium no credit as a means of making mind-driven argument (the instinctive ethos of ‘The Thought Fox’, followed to its logical end, denies visionary status to thinking English poets from John Milton to Geoffrey Hill; and don’t get me started on the unsavoury implications of making an implied irrational natural order the true ethos of poetry – it’s the starting point of sexism, racism, fascism and Lord knows what else). It also incidentally denies poetry any status as a critical medium; the implied poet of ‘The Thought Fox’ throws his imagination up onto the moors to whiffle on about nature, while wars rage, nations howl and banks collapse unnoticed. And finally – as I said – it’s formally so dull. Has anything happened in poetic expression since about 1850 (and that’s being generous)? Not, apparently, for the poet of ‘The Thought Fox’. Is the action of language itself worth questioning? No.

    In summary, it should be banned; or, at the very least, it should be taught as an example of failed rhetoric that seeks to neutralise the truly visionary and turn the arc-weld brilliance of poetic vision into something more akin to a soggy match that sputters, sparks, then dies, failing even to set itself alight. It is indeed a truly awful poem.

  6. Andy Jackson says:

    You don’t like it, then, Al?

  7. ‘America’ by Allen Ginsberg

    http://www.writing.upenn.edu/~afilreis/88/america.html

    This dangerous and obscene poem encourages alcoholism, anti-nationalism, atheism, capitalism, corruption, degeneracy, drug abuse, grandiose delusions, greed, hate speech, homosexuality, hoodoo voodoo, immorality, insanity, materialism, paranoia, perversity, pornography, profanity, propaganda, racism, radicalism, rebellion, sex and independent thought.

  8. As it has become obvious that young people are not capable of independent, rational thought–especially when exposed to incendiary ideas and concepts under the guise of “art” and, more specific to this notice, “poetry”–we the esteemed board members of the AQA have found it necessary to recommend with the most solemn urgency that a series of these works be eliminated from all primary and secondary school curricula immediately.

    The full list will be communicated at a future date, but of utmost urgency is the elimination of any reading, study or discussion around the poem, “Still I Rise,” composed by the American poet Maya Angelou. This work’s explicit celebration of sexuality, self-confidence and resistance in the face of extreme adversity–as well as outright rebellion against authority–are themes and ideas that must not be allowed to corrupt the tender minds of our country’s youth.

    We have already received multiple complaints of youth who, after reading this poem, have begun to ask questions to figures of authority that include the words, “why” and “what for”. Additionally, some youth have felt they now have a right to dance as if they have “…diamonds/at the meeting of [their] thighs…”, all the while chanting, “Still I rise!”

    It is not with levity that we have reached this decision, but the multiple public reports and obviously dangerous content of this poem have left us no other choice. Please dispose immediately of any books or anthologies that contain this dangerous poem, ideally through the shredding of said work or by bringing it with you to one of the upcoming AQA-sponsored public bonfires (dates and locations forthcoming).

    We have included this link to the entire poem for purposes of reference and verification: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15623

    Thank you for your cooperation in this urgent matter.

  9. Tanja Cilia says:

    http://www.bartleby.com/188/119.html

    One poem I would most certainly ban because it will have a lethal effect on young impressionable minds is “My Shadow” by Robert Louis Stevenson.
    It is clear that this poem will unhinge the minds of children, because it will make them as obsessed with their shadow as the poet appears to be, and they will not be able to walk straight along the road if, as in the Irish Blessing, their shadow falls behind them, because they will be forever turning around to check whether it is still there.
    They will also do naughty things like throw stones at windows and climb walls, to see if their shadow follows suit.
    Indeed the poet knows that the fixation with his shadow has taken over his life and challenged his mental stability. He insists that he can see the shadow jump into his bed before him. Now we all know that this is ridiculous because there is no shadow that would willingly go to bed at night when it can have so much more additional fun, accompanying the Sandman out on his Darkness Rounds.
    The poet says his shadow is alive – what nonsense! He says it grows longer and shorter as he feels like. It is clear that the poet was sleeping during his geography, physics, biology and chemistry lessons, because he would have known that an shadow is only the product of one’s imagination and as such will only grow fatter and thinner and longer and shorter and wider and narrower and bigger and smaller according to how much the imagination feeds it and I have run out of breath so I will stop here.
    He does not realise, by the way, that the shadow sticks close to him because it is his, and no one else wants it.

  10. Steve Moran says:

    I wish to complain about the poem “Ode to a Nightingale” (http://www.bartleby.com/101/624.html) by somebody called John Keats which appears to have slipped through the protective procedures that detected the Duffy outrage.

    In the first stanza there are some casual references to drinking poison and drug taking, which might lead impressionable school consumers into thinking that such activities were harmless or socially acceptable:
    “…as though of hemlock I had drunk,
    Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains
    One minute past…”

    The second stanza appears to glorify ethanol ingestion, which as we know can lead to anti-social behaviour such as singing loudly and gadding about the streets in groups for the purposes of so-called fun: “O for a draught of vintage!” (etc.)

    This is followed by a number of stanzas that appear to promote indolence, i.e. economic inactivity, and escapism: “Away! away! for I will fly to thee” [etc.] The insidious glamorisation of ethanol abuse reappears: “The coming musk-rose, full of dewy wine”.

    Another problem with this text, by “John Keats”, is an equivocal viewpoint on the subject of suicide: “I have been half in love with easeful Death”.

    In the opinion of this desk, the abovementioned elements are inappropriate and sufficient to ban this text from schooling centres. However there is another issue, which it pains me to have to refer to, and that is the use of language wholly inappropriate for juvenile lesson attendees:
    “Still wouldst thou sing, and I have ears in vain—
    To thy high requiem become a sod.”

  11. Gerald Hairpiece says:

    that one from ‘four weddings’. ruddy turgid.

  12. Mark McGuinness says:

    Some great responses here so far!

    Just to be clear – we’re looking for examples of poems that “if read by unsuspecting schoolchildren, would surely unleash a frenzy of antisocial behaviour”. Not just poems you don’t like or think are badly written.

  13. I would ban ‘As I Walked Out One Evening’ by WH Auden. Anyone who has seen Back to the Future 1-4, knows that you can conquer time simply by using a flux capacitor. The scientific information given in this poem is also consistently at odds with the core knowledge laid down in the national curriculum. Warmer ocean temperatures over the last 30 years have, for instance, made the prospect of a glacier knocking in one’s cupboard so remote a possibility as to be laughable.

    On a pedantic note I should also observe, by the way, that the AQA only administers GCSEs and A Levels, qualifications primarily sought in England. Our own SQA has no poetry syllabus at Higher Grade, only at Advance Higher level where no attempt has been made to ban anything.

  14. Initially NO says:

    I would like to advise that My Country by Dorothea Mackellar, should have been long ago banned from the syllabus.
    Young people need to know sunburn is bad for them and can cause skin cancer.
    The sun shouldn’t be encouraged to burn the country more. Australia has had droughts and fires and all sorts of things because people worship the sun and encourage it to shine, when it really should be discouraged!
    If this poem isn’t banned I fear more children will love sunburn and get skin cancer and die. It is imperative that Dorothy is no longer allowed to encourage such activity. Besides such love of your own country is equivalent to masturbation. Whether that should be encouraged or not is not the point but it certainly shouldn’t be on the school curriculum.

    What really needs to be burnt can be read at this site.http://www.imagesaustralia.com/mycountry.htm Just a warning, put your earplugs in and get a blast.
    Here is the most offending section:
    I love a sunburnt country,
    A land of sweeping plains,
    Of ragged mountain ranges,
    Of droughts and flooding rains.
    I love her far horizons,
    I love her jewel-sea,
    Her beauty and her terror –
    The wide brown land for me!

  15. Sylva Portoian says:

    I think the students should choose their poems and bring it to class to read rather than forced on them to read what they don’t like.Through this way we can understand their psychology
    and guide them.

  16. Danny Birchall says:

    Rudyard Kipling’s “IF…” is the very epitome of a Middle English understanding of what life should be about, a nostalgic masturbation over Victorian values.

    This poem once graced the office wall of the most spectacularly incompetent director of a cultural organisation that I’ve ever worked for, when he was only the deputy. It was a warning sign; few saw it.

  17. Vivienne Blake says:

    The idea of banning poetry from schools, while repugnant, is bound to result in some pruning of dangerous matter from the curriculum. We should look for vastly over-written poems full of adjectives, adverbs and archaisms and ban them in the interests of forming acceptable taste in literature. But principally, my recommendation is that we consider the suitability of the poem “I wish I’d looked after me teeth” by Pam Ayres, as calculated to increase in our young the desire for a Nanny State, not to mention being far too amusing to be suitable reading in the seriously literary environment of an English class. The poem is completely understandable at first reading, thus discouraging the use of opaque metaphor and complex language. The poem has punctuation and a natural rhyme and rhythm, totally at odds with current educational thinking.

  18. Al says:

    Hi Andy –

    Dammit! I thought I’d covered it up my dislike of it with subtle irony 🙂

  19. ‘A Narrow Fellow in the Grass’ by Emily Dickinson

    http://www.online-literature.com/dickinson/824/

    Clearly this poem is a paean to drug dealing and drug abuse. It must be considered a great threat to the impressionable minds of our youth culture, particularly those boys within at-risk demographics in primarily lower social order neighbourhoods with high proportions of BME single-parent families.

    The opening lines, which attach a mystique of sharp-eyed ‘cool’ to the drug dealer, quickly reveals him, ‘joint’ in hand (his “spotted shaft”), hiding out in places like Hackney Marshes (the “boggy acre”) or similar urban brown- or green-field wastelands. These places, some of which are traditional public rights of way, or even former Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONS), have become populated by hoodlums of the most offensive kind, who like to compare ASBOs while sniffing glue.

    The poem goes on to glamorise the elusive, enticing nature of the ‘pothead’ and pot-smoking (that “whiplash” of smoke “unbraiding”) and worse yet, the poem’s speaker seems to actually quest for, to search out a ‘trip’, in order to ‘cop out’, or ‘groove’, or whatever they call it these days.

    The final capture of what it feels like to be ‘on drugs’ – “a tighter breathing, / And zero at the bone”, is an exhortation to get high, an expression of the feeling drug-users experience while smoking hashish, or so I am taken to believe through my contact with users I met at university.

    The AQA would be endorsing social disintegration and reprobate attitudes if they let our schoolchildren come near such deviant and immoral poetry.

  20. Bob Dunning says:

    I have already written to my MP to ensure the future banning of ‘The Jumblies’ by Edward Lear.

    Lear recklessly encourages children to blatantly ignore the advice of their elders who correctly inform them they‘ll, ‘all be drowned’ when they sail to sea in sieve! If that was not bad enough they set off without any navigation devices, or radio contact on a stormy day in the middle of Winter!

    If young children get it into their heads that they would survive, and even prosper from such an adventure, there is no telling how many deaths would ensue. I doubt they have even heard of the Recreational Craft Directive, let alone adhered to it.

    The poem also has disgraceful examples of budgeting skills that would ruin any young family without even pointing out that their purchases could expose them not only to swine flu but bird flu too! Furthermore without a fridge all that can be said about their endless supply of stilton cheese is that the salmonella would probably kill them before coronary disease did. I somehow doubt they have done their food handling courses.

    Finally, I would want to informed as to what ‘Ring-Bo-Ree’ contains to be sure they were not both drinking underage and in charge of a water vehicle under the influence.

    If he were not already deceased, I personally be calling for Lear to be subjected to the strictest punishments available to the law for producing this vile poem and only pray that parents are aware of what they are exposing their children to if they allow them to even look at this nonsense.

  21. ‘Porphyria’s Lover’ (http://www.bartleby.com/101/720.html) by the nineteenth century poet Robert Browning should have been banned from the English Literature curriculum a century ago. Without the pernicious influence of this poem Duffy’s ‘Education for Leisure’ could not have been conceived, let alone outlawed.

    ‘P’s Lover’ clearly glorifies gratuitous violence. This first person monologue encourages the reader to identify with a psychotic killer. Even the movement of the verse ritualises violence:

    That moment she was mine, mine, fair,
    Perfectly pure and good: I found
    A thing to do, and all her hair
    In one long yellow string I wound
    Three times her little throat around,
    And strangled her.

    It is impossible to read this aloud without experiencing a sensation of pleasure simply through identifying with a deluded strangler.

    The poem and concludes in a way that undermines all religious faith of any kind: “God [any god] has not said a word”.

    Moreover the poem is fetishistic (see numerous references to ‘yellow hair’). It is possible that generations of serial killers, introduced to this poem in their tender years, have been fundamentally influenced. On reading this poem for the first time, most honest people would confess to the impulse to kill (at the very least) a goldfish.

    ‘Porphyria’s Lover’ also encourages rhyme and metre, something which we now know to be morally decadent. It is not the only poem by this author which advocates violence and the tendency to reflect nostalgically on violent acts. No wonder today’s knife-wielding generation enjoys poetry so much!

  22. Ann Alexander says:

    When I am Queen, or better still, Minister for Education, I will most definitely ban Wordsworth’s “Daffodils” from the school syllabus. Can there be anyone of sense left in this country who is not aware of the fragile nature of the Lake District? Encouraging schoolchildren to develop romantic notions about the countryside and the pleasures of solitary rambling is – at best – criminally selfish, and at worst, an act of eco-terrorism. Right minded people should get their daffodils from a flower stall (thus benefitting the economies of Cornwall and the Scillies, who are recognised as having the lowest per capita income in Britain.

  23. I see someone from Railtrack has read this magma prompt and taken offensive action by painting over Sue Hubbard’s frightfully dangerous poem Eurydice in the Waterloo Underpass leading to the BFI IMAX and the South Bank Arts’ hub – far more pernicious than anything in a textbook and forced to the attention of millions of women who may be encouraged into their fantasies of independence.

  24. I would ban “Song of Myself” from “Leaves of Grass” by Mr Walt Whitman.

    First of all it is far too long to be a poem – and it doesn’t rhyme either, so I think Mr Whitman has a nerve to even call it poetry. Neither is it a song. Mr Whitman professes to be a writer and yet cannot even define the form he writes in accurately.

    Bad as all that may be, it is even more serious that Mr Whitman encourages the sin of sloth – at numerous points throughout the text the writer is encouraged to “lean and loafe”, waste time “observing a spear of summer grass”, “loafe with me on the grass”, I could go on. Is Mr Whitman not aware that there is a recession on? How are we to prosper if we take Mr Whitman’s lead?

    But that is not all. This grass that Mr Whitman would have us loafing about on. Whose grass is it? Mr Whitman does not say. I would suggest that Mr Whitman would be well advised to remind his readership that (if they must) they may loafe about on their own lawn, but are likely to be in breach of the law of trespass if they do so on any random piece of grass they come across.

    Finally, and I think most damningly, Mr Whitman blatantly promotes obesity in the line “I am large, I contain multitudes”.

    So then: sloth, trespass and obesity – if that is not enough to see this irresponsible piece of “poetry” banned indefinitely then I do not know what is.

  25. Trish Davis says:

    It is with serious concern and a sense of urgency that I write to the AQA. You must ban, with immediate effect Stevie Smith’s poem ‘Not Waving but Drowning’. Only AQA has the power to save the Prime Minister and his Government. Her Majesty has called on him to dissolve parliament with immediate effect, as she has lost confidence in his ability to run the country. This emergency has arisen after Her Majesty was stranded in the midst of a multiple pile up of ambulances, police cars and fire engines which had crashed into the life boats being lowered by helicopter in an attempt to rescue Her Majesty. This disaster arose after thousands of school children dialled 999 on their mobile phones when they witnessed Her Majesty waving persistently. Those who had studied this dangerous poem had misinterpreted this as a signal that she was drowning. Such disasters must never be allowed to happen again. AQA, your Prime Minister needs you to act now.

  26. I haven’t laughed so much for ages. Thank-you, all of you, for your fabulous contributions. Keep ’em coming.

  27. Kate B Hall says:

    Sir,
    Re. At Lunch Time by Roger McGough
    I must say I was surprised to find the above poem in a collection which is at present in our children’s school library. From a seemingly innocent beginning this poem deteriorates into an apology for coercive licentiousness and wanton promiscuity. What can our children think when they read:
    and soon the bus was aquiver
    with white, mothballed bodies doing naughty things
    The poem suggests that, on the pretext – the world will end at lunchtime – people would behave in a kind of mad, animalistic way. Surely if the world was about to end, most respectable people would hurry home to their loved ones, rather than taking part in unbridled fornication on a public bus. Further more this poem is unlikely to improve the behaviour of some school children on public transport
    The “world ending” is a fabrication on the part of the poet, to seduce an innocent woman, hardly the kind of behaviour we would recommend to our young people.
    There is also a totally unacceptable, albeit veiled, reference to homosexuality which I do believe is forbidden in our schools, and if it is not, it most certainly should be:
    even the bus conductor
    feeling left out
    climbed into the cab
    and struck up some sort of relationship with the driver
    Note bus conductor not conductress, at best this is likely to cause sniggering and subsequent embarrassment for the teachers and at worst, lead to some kind of disastrous experimentation.
    I am aware that this poem is intended to be humorous but I am afraid it is simply distasteful and wholly unsuitable for a school library. This book should be burned – I mean banned.
    Yours faithfully,
    A Concerned Citizen.

  28. Sally Evans says:

    My blackball goes to the same poem as Danny Birchall (above):

    “If” by Ruddy Hard Kipling. http://www.kipling.org.uk/poems_if.htm

    This poem is utterly sexist and totally unsuitable for education. There is not one single reference to the feminine viewpoint throughout. Apart from that, it encourages selfish acquisitiveness (Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it), and a scheming attitude to life, though you will notice it does not distinguish between success and cock-ups (If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster/
    And treat those two impostors just the same).

    But worst of all it contains a whole section encouraging out and out secret gambling (If you can make one heap of all your winnings / And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss / And lose, and start again at your beginnings / And never breathe a word about your loss).

    Moreover this so called poem was composed as an after dinner speech for some raucous all-male occasion, for which purpose it was first printed on a menu card. There it should have stayed, and no doubt would have stayed but for the chauvinist attitudes accepted at that time in history when it was written. No this certainly is not suitable for our children.

  29. Dear John

    As a fellow AQA board member, you will be shocked to discover that my teenage son, without any prompt or encouragement, quoted a few lines from a poem in the new AQA anthology. I was so shocked at this display of free will and literary pleasure, that I immediately ordered a copy of the anthology and read the poem for myself.

    I discovered several major failings:

    Firstly the problem poem doesn’t have a title, how did this manage to slip through? I have written to the software providers for a copy of the relevant checks.

    Secondly, the poet, a Simon Armitage, looks nothing like a poet. In fact he looks like someone teenagers could relate to – is there an agreed protocol for photos provided?

    Finally, the actual poem is written about his ‘Mother’. It tells how she helps her son measure rooms in an empty house and yet there is no mention of the father. This shows signs of the oedipus complex and I am concerned it will subconsciously encourage young men to kill their fathers leaving only their mother to help with the DIY. This would be a disaster as the poem clearly does not give proper advice on the use of tape measures:

    “Mother, any distance greater than a single span/requires a second pair of hands.”

    We know this data to be incorrect as all measures have a metal clip on the end.

    This poem fails in the fundamental strategy to “provide pupils with poems which they do not understand and fill them with dread ensuring they do not read poetry after leaving school except in proper situations such as weddings, funerals and Burns nights.”

  30. Tanja Cilia says:

    All I want for Christmas…. is a book with all the afore-mentioned poems.
    I have even blogged about this contest, for good measure:
    http://www.timesofmalta.com/blogs/view/20091120/tanja-cilia/censor-or-censure

  31. Thanks for all your entries, folks. You have given us, as judges, a very difficult job, although also a highly enjoyable one! It’s hard to choose… but we will…

  32. […] our ‘banned poems’ competition, that […]