How School Made Me Loathe Poetry

Do you remember being taught poetry at school? If I try, I can access fragments of memories. These include April afternoons reading Jabberwocky, reciting Ted Hughes aloud to the class as my stomach churned with nerves, and poring over Wilfred Owen. Mostly, however, my experience of poetry at school is a distant fuzz.

Partly, I would argue, it’s because there’s simply not enough poetry taught at schools (a debate that is due an entire post of its own). Yet also, it’s because of the way poetry is presented to children.

Poetry can help us articulate deep emotions or feelings, it can be used to express bold, daring views, or it can be witty, playful, thoughtful, and insightful.

That’s what I’ve learned since leaving school. At school, I was never taught to appreciate the emotional or intellectual impact the right piece of poetry can have. Rather, the approach was overwhelmingly technical. Spot the metaphors here. Please circle all examples of alliteration here. Please differentiate between assonance and consonance. This will be on your GCSE paper. 20 marks. I hated it.

For so many years, we’ve methodically sucked the joy, the craft, and the emotion out of poetry, and this process starts when we are young. Thanks to government-backed performance league tables, UK schools and teachers are left with no other choice than to teach kids that, hey, the most important thing about poetry is that you can spot an onomatopoeia. And we wonder why consumers have turned from poetry and poetry publishers are going belly up.

Chris Greenhough

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One Response to “How School Made Me Loathe Poetry”

  1. Cracking article Chris.

    Poetry at school was always boring…I don’t remember doing much of it.

    I’m a comedian/poet and I tweet lots of small humorous rhymes eg

    I am a little crocodile I think I’ve hurt my knee.
    I can’t to the doctor; I just ate him for my tea

    and as a result a local school is exploring the idea enrolling me to speak to a group of 7/8 year olds to show them that poetry can be fun.

    I think that’s definitely the way ahead. If someone had thought of that when I was at school I would have embraced poetry earlier…

    Thanks for flagging this up.

    Jan Jack

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