What I’ve mostly been doing…

Sometimes, I’m right pleased with myself. This is not good for my target of being more humble, which a former boss once set for me. However, I don’t care.

I’ve been working on some e-books, working on the premise that schools with more money than sense buy their students kindles or e-readers, and also working on the premise that there is some REALLY, REALLY bad teaching out there. Unfortunately, marking GCSEs you get to see what are patterns of what’s been taught and the next script that tells me the poet made their poem look like a flag or waves or someone going under a limbo stick is likely to send me into permanent apoplexy.

Not only that, the poems in the new anthology are, by and large, magnificent. But they’re not easy for lazy teachers who can’t be bothered to find out about any other John Agard poetry, or any other E. E. Cummings poetry, or teachers who just don’t get it. Not that I mean to damn English teachers, but someone, somewhere is teaching kids that poems look like the Huddersfield poet flipping the bird. Because Yarksher people do the one-fingered salute?!

The problem is that the markscheme needs kids to write about form. For teachers, this means the shape, rather than the structure – and if they’re not an English specialist, or if they’re a language rather than literature specialist, or if they barely scraped a third from some college-made-university at the bottom of the uni league tables, or if they’re lazy, or if they’re a PE teacher covering for a maternity leave, or a Geography supply teacher, then they might think form means shape.

You might think I’m jesting. I’m not. I’ve already read the Hodder GCSE guide in which they say a poem looks like a flag. It’s endemic and it gives me seasonal apoplexy.

Anyway, as part of my bid to end this stupidity, I’ve written a poetry analysis.

That’s the easy bit. Writing about poems, contrary to my A level English teacher’s belief in my lack of ability, is easy for me.

Making a front cover – not so easy.

Although, I do have four years of post-A level photography under my belt, so I know what looks good, even if I can’t quite work the technology properly and I’m too lazy to make sure it’s perfect.

So… here, without further ado, dah-Dah-DAH…

… drum roll please…

… is the front cover of my new AQA GCSE poetry guide. It’s the second in a series of eight I plan on doing. The first is up and running on Amazon and has sold more than a pound’s worth of royalties, so that’s all good. When it reaches a million pounds worth of royalties, I’ll buy all my readers a drink.

And, if you’re not a worried 16 year old, even if you aren’t really a poetry lover, read some of these: they’re brilliant. Very thought-provoking.

Mametz Wood by Owen Sheers

I ♥ this poem. It’s just wonderful.

In fact, I ♥ Owen Sheers. He’s a very handsome Welsh boy and writes poetry. He’s like a young Seamus Heaney. Love.

The Right Word by Imtiaz Dharker

This should be given to everyone who watches or reads the news. It’s wonderful. If everyone thought like this…

The Yellow Palm by Robert Minhinnick

and my final choice:

Belfast Confetti by Ciaran Carson – how punctuation and space and line breaks and rhythm can recreate a moment and convey a bombing in Belfast… wonderful. I love it more each time I read it.

It’s a shame some poems are for ‘scholars’ and used to torture GCSE students by teaching them nonsense.


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