Oh to be in high school English again where poetry is wrung out and left to dry

Cover: "Our Favourite Poems"I wish I hadn’t studied poetry at high school.

I wish I had been left to wander lonely as a cloud and to lie amid the daffodils.Why could I not be left to explore Xanadu’s pleasure domes at my leisure?

If I had been left to enjoy poetry, I would have put to sea in my pea-green boat and rescued the boy from a burning deck. We would sail away for a year and a day (or until I understood haiku poetry). We would bump against a foreign shore that will be forever England.

If  I hadn’t been made to study poetry at school, I would run over hill and dale, clasping my book of poems. I would ride the colt from old Regret across my sunburnt country. I would dip my toes in  the sloeblack, slow, black, crowblack, fishingboat-bobbing sea and  The Bloke would take Doreen to see a play.

Before I studied poetry in high school, I was let to run across glade and glen, shunning the frumious Bandersnatch and brandishing my vorpal blade. I knew why a raven was like a desk and I knew for whom the bell tolled. It tolled for my family, telling us to hurry up or we’ll be late for church. Before I studied poetry, I knew not what the poet meant, only what was said.

Alas, dear reader, my teacher took my much loved poems from me

and told me what the poet really meant to say.

The poems lost their colour and the images faded away.

So tell me if you can… Is it too late for Hunt, Dennis, Thomas, Yeats and Wordsworth to weave a colourful poem for me?

Or have I found a Boojum?

11 thoughts on “Oh to be in high school English again where poetry is wrung out and left to dry

  1. Laraine 27 July 2012 / 10:15 am

    My memories of poetry at school are all to do with elocution lessons and I remember the whole class getting thoroughly fed up and chanting, all sing-song (as only rhyming poetry can let you do:
    “There WAS a lonely cottage once uPON a mountainside,” etc. Our elocution classes were taken not by one of the nuns but a woman who visited the school once a week. (Poor soul!) If we did this to a nun we’d all have got the cane.

    • ValerieL 27 July 2012 / 11:27 am

      Boy, amy I glad I wasn’t in your poetry class. I thought it bad enought when two of my primary school teachers took a liking to “Bush Ballads and Galloping Rhymes”.

  2. michaelbaitken 27 July 2012 / 2:02 pm

    Aaaaah…takes me back. Elocution lessons with Miss Litchwark in Leamington; How now, brown cow?

    • ValerieL 27 July 2012 / 3:12 pm

      Mr Flemming tried giving elcoution lessons; She sells seashells by the seashore which got lost in translation and became; she shells she shores by the sea sells.

  3. purplerulz 27 July 2012 / 5:24 pm

    Ah, you should had Mr Moynihan as your English teacher (Papanui High mid 70’s) He was a thespian who performed all the great works for us at the front of the class. He turned me onto the war poems of Wilfred Owen, Siegfrid Sasoon etc and so many other wonderful poems, as well as Shakespeare and wonderful plays. He made me believe my love of words was a good thing!

    • ValerieL 28 July 2012 / 11:28 am

      I whish there are more Mr Moynihan’s in the world. Then we may enjoy our poetry books. Almost all the poems refered to in my blog were poems that I had read and enjoyed outside school poetry classes.

  4. lynners 28 July 2012 / 10:53 am

    “My name is Ozymandias, king of kings,
    Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair”.
    My dad turned me on to poetry, he used to quote bits of poems all the time. Growing up Anglican was also a great help; we still had the King James version of the Bible in those days, fabulous ornate dark language:
    “Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust”, which I used to think was horrible, but now seems comforting in its lack of compromise.

    • ValerieL 28 July 2012 / 11:33 am

      I grew up with King James and it’s dark, powerful prose. My family are farmers, so it’s no-nonsence aproach suited. It was those same farmers quoted:
      Under a spreading chestnut tree The village smithy stands;

  5. Andrew M. Bell 2 June 2016 / 5:42 pm

    Yes, we all needed more Mr Moynihans in our English classes. I was fortunate to have a wonderful teacher in Year 7 and then another wonderful English teacher, Brother Roger, in High School. Both of these men encouraged me to love poetry and literature and made my young life richer. And, consequently, my older life was richer too.

    • ValerieL 13 June 2016 / 2:57 pm

      I am always surprised by the poetic references made in books and films. Would I have enjoyed theses books and films if I hadn’t been exposed to poetry? I’m glad you and I both had interesting teachers that encouraged the love of poetry.

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