I'm sorry if I'm re-opening a closed discussion here, but I haven't been on the list
for too long.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but is the 'Young People Against Poetry' the same campaign
that was staged by the Queensland University Student Union magazine Semper last year
If so, I'll have to add something to Malouf's view. As I see it, he's, I think,
absolutly right to point out one of the many inadequacies in our so-called primary
and secondary education system when it comes to teacing poetry, but in this
particular context and form my expereince, I find the institutions and the
universities to be more responsible for this particular incident; there, poetry
isn't only dismissed or ill-treated by unknowing teachers; it's systematically
combated and at times even extinguished by very determined students and staff.
I will hunt down (not literally; no need to call the cops yet) the people
responsible for the incident during the Brisbane Writers' Festival for a few
questions, and I will share the results with the group, but here's my version of the
story, and this is based on my experiece at my current university where the eight
undergraduate editors of the student magazine have decided to abandon the poetry
page and replace it with a page of comics (I'm NOT kidding); and there are three
pages of comics already.
Rest assure, I did fly off the handle and did my best to change their minds and it
ended up ugly; but that was nothing compared to hearing that our student union has
decided to withdraw funding from the literary journal Veranda. I'm seeing a pattern
here; the same 'force of evil' that is at work at my uni seems to be the same one
that let the editors of the University of Queensland's student magazine feel
justified to spend the students' fees on a long plastic banner and on hiring an
airplane to fly 'Poetry rots brains' or whatever over the city. But what's
this 'force of evil'?
I think a lot of people in their early twenty's are too hard at work to attract the
opposite sex, which means 'comedy' and 'comics' and 'band-reviews' have
automatically more appeal that 'poetry', 'literature' or 'art'. Then there're
lecturers who tell their students 'poetry is dead'. I have had a few of them, though
I won't name names. Importantly, I think, is the absence of poetry in mainstream
media; and mainstream media is deadly important to most youths who see it as their
Oh well, I've just strted stating the obvious by the looks of it, so I'll shut up...
---- Original Message ----
From: Clayton Hansen
Date: Fri 3/2/01 17:29
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: a note on rote
Dear List .... This as a tangent to the discussion of memory and poetry.
In a speech to the Brisbane Institute, David Malouf has called for a
return to the teaching of poetry by rote in primary school aged
children. In an article in the Courier Mail (Wednesday Feb 28)
entitled: Rhyme and reason for rote learning. David was, it seems to
me, raising an argument against the group of twenty-somethings called
Young People against Poetry who, as the list may recall, protested at
the Brisbane Writers' Fetsival and called for the Queensland Government
to ban poetry from schools because poetry was frivolous and culturally
Fair enough. Each to his/her own, I say. But what has caused me some
interest, bordering on concern, was David's argument that these people,
having missed the opportunity to learn poetry (by rote) have somehow
missed the opportunity of poetry. I offer these paragraphs from the
article by David Malouf and wonder if there is any comment...
I belong to a generation when Queensland children learnt a good deal of
poetry by rote - or to use a milder and more evocative term, by heart.
Memory these days, in accordance with modern educational theory, is very
much devalued as a tool of instruction - I think at some cost - and rote
learning has become, in conventional educational circles, a form of
child abuse - though I should point out that, as in so much else that we
take for granted and regard as indisputable, the prejudice against the
use of memory, and against rote learning, is culturally specific to
educational theories in English. French and Italian and German school
children do not have the benefit of them, and go on learning by heart as
in the old days.
He goes on to say...
Of course, no boy or girl is "ready" for Wordsworth's Daffodils or
Shelley's Ode to the West Wind at 10 or 11. But if they get the music
of the poem into their heads, when they come face to face with the poem
as adults they will be astonished how much of the full experience of the
thing they have already absorbed. I might even go so far as to say that
the only way of getting to this point with a poem is to have it "by
heart" and, if possible, early; that a later reading, without such an
early meeting with the poem, will miss the real experience of the thing.
It is a longish article but I have tried to be careful with
context...the full article was printed in the Courier Mail of February
28th. I had local media ring me at work (school) for comment, at the
time I had not read the piece, and was unable to comment...one of our
staff, knowing my affinity for poetry, gathered it for me. The local
newspaper did not ring back today...already old news?