Thursday, 13 December 2012

Poetry by heart

I'm probably not going to make myself too many friends by saying this, but Michael Gove's poetry recitation competition for schools doesn't seem, on the face of it, to be too bad an idea.

I can quite understand that many people may have been put off poetry by learning it by heart in school, but equally I suspect lots will have carried at least a few poems around with them for the rest of their lives as a result of this sort of thing (my mum, for example). I'm not entirely clear whether or not taking part will be voluntary, so I do have reservations on that count.

What does seem a bit disappointing is the fact that those taking part will have to choose poems from an approved list. I've got no problem with putting the poems mentioned in that article in front of the teenagers, as suggestions, but surely you'd go much further towards encouraging a love of poetry by letting them pick poems themselves?


Caroline Gill said...

I love being able to recite poems to myself (or at least the snatches of them that I recall). I wish I had learned more by heart when I was younger. Of course we don't want force feeding ... but I agree that it could be a positive thing for children to choose to learn poems that particularly appeal. I learned bits of 'The Lady of Shalott' long before I 'understood' the significance of the weaving and the curse etc. It is still among my favourite poems.

Tim Love said...

In the current "Times Higher Education" there's a review of Catherine Robson's "Heartbeats: Everyday Life and the Memorized Poem" (Princeton UP, 2012) where it says that the book "considers the practices of memorisation and recitation of poetry in schools in the UK and the US over the course of the 19th and 20th centuries, and the effects these practices had on the lives of those who committed poems to memory as a result"

David C Brown said...

If it's "by heart" - great! If it's just by brain - not much point.