Links for reading pleasure!

Thanks to Star Opal, a few neat-o links.

Book CoverFirst, never doubt the power of your local library, particularly one that rents typewriters for .10 cents an hour. Otherwise we might not have books like Fahrenheit 451. The library was Bradbury’s personal office.

Note to self: do not write evocative, chilling, and profoundly thought provoking poems about knives in England unless you’d like that poem to be removed from the GCSE syllabus because knives are scary (so is the poem, which is chilling). .

Note to self: if one day you are spankingly good poet whose work has been removed from the GCSE curriculum due to some wanker’s complaining about it: respond in the poetic equivalent of a pile driver by writing a new poem that is so awesome, I had to read it three times.

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  1. 1
    AgTigress says:

    The automatic anti-censorship response is understandable, but so is the position of the would-be censors. 
    You need to see this against the almost panicky atmosphere prevailing in this country at the moment in relation to knife crime.  Murders of teenagers, by teenagers, by stabbing are in the forefront of the news, day after day, and nobody seems to have much idea how to tackle the problem.  Although the reporting of such crimes is probably more regular than it was in the past (and indeed, it is only recently that it was reported as a separate classification), there is no doubt at all that this particular type of violence is far, far more prevalent than it was even ten years ago, and people are naturally desperately concerned about it.
    The standard of education in the UK has dropped alarmingly over the last few decades, and I have no doubt that Duffy’s poem could very easily be interpreted by some disaffected youth as a rallying-cry rather than a grim warning, as an exciting ideal rather than a chilling threat.  That is, if they can be bothered to read it at all.
    I am not trying to justify the censorship, which I think is mistaken, but rather, to explain the knee-jerk reaction that lies behind it.

  2. 2
    AgTigress says:

    This is an article with statistics from October of last year:
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1567594/400-victims-of-knife-crimes-each-week.html
    The fact that Londoners are now statistically more likely to be stabbed or robbed at knifepoint than to be killed or injured in a traffic accident is a thought-provoking one.  Of course, that may just be because the average speed of vehicles in central London is less than 5 miles an hour…

  3. 3

    Ignoring an issue doesn’t make it go away – and identifying this poem as “a problem” probably only caused more people to read it – and perhaps misinterpret it without a group with which to discuss it. 

    I’m guessing that if the US were to suddenly ban and confiscate all firearms, knife crimes would increase. People kill people with whatever is handy and convenient, poetry aside.

  4. 4
    annemjw says:

    Carol Ann Duffy is amazing and I adore her. I am also a total Shakespeare nerd, so this covers so many bases for me it’s not even funny. Except it’s funny as well! Oh Ms. Duffy, how did you get so awesome?

  5. 5
    Sparky says:

    The UK is currently in utter paranoid terror about the sharp things that has been taken by Helen Lovejoys of the country to mean ther world is ending and it’s time to run around in circles screaming in terror. Persoanlly, I think the panic is rather higher than the threat, as things tend to be in these issues.

    Sadly, there is a significant subculture that thinks knives are cools – and they’re largely young teens. Anything that makes knives seem “cool” or to glorify knives even if it doesn’t is going to cause a huge backlash.

    Frankly I’m vaguely amused at the idea that kids are going to be inspired to stab people based on POETRY! I mean, I remember my days as a rebellious teen (alright, an angst ridden teen) and the only poetry that ever featured in our world was the gods-awful tribe we defiled paper with

  6. 6
    Cat Marsters says:

    That is, if they can be bothered to read it at all.

    I’m just astonished anyone has connected GCSE English with teenagers who stab each other.  Quick poll: how many days of school have these stabbers actually attended….ever?

    If we’re going to ban books for giving teenagers the wrong idea, please can we take Tess of the D’oormat off the syllabus?  Teaching teenage girls to cry rape after a seduction, name your kids stupid things (Sorrow??), believe you deserve to be treated like a second-class citizen, marry a hypocrite you hardly know, then encourage him to leave you destitute, and stab the one person who wants to take care of you (knife crime!  Knife crime!)?  Yeah, great role model.  Where’s Moll Flanders when you need her?

    Dammit, I got started on my GCSE English rant.  See, this is why I don’t read literature.

  7. 7
    SB Sarah says:

    AgTigress: I empathize with the panic and the fear response. In my part of the US, the fear among teenage crime is mugging (especially for iPods and iPhones) and gang related violence to the point where guns, knives, enormous white tshirts and black pans are all suspect (not to mention the skin tone of the person wearing said shirt and said pants, which is just bollocks, to borrow a term).

    But the banning of the poem – knee-jerk as you called it – makes me want to bang my head on the table, and please do not feel as if I’m sitting from some place of self-infused moral superiority over here in the US of WTF. The same response might easily happen here and I’d be equally agog.

    What’s the next step for violence prevention? Metal detectors?

  8. 8
    snarkhunter says:

    Teaching teenage girls to cry rape after a seduction

    I guess that depends on how you read the novel. And given the class dynamics, Tess couldn’t have said no even if she wanted to.

    Anyway. What I really came on to say was Carol Ann Duffy FTW!! She is awesome. And so is her poetry.

    Also, I’m sorry, but the increase in knife crime, while terrifying, is not a good reason to stop teaching/examining on a poem. If anything, teaching the poem properly and offering examinations on it would create a stronger understanding of the poem and maybe the crimes themselves.

    And I gotta agree with Duffy’s second poem—there’s a hell of a lot more stabbing (and it’s made to sound pretty darn cool) in Shakespeare than in just about anything modern. Better get on the banning of that.

  9. 9
    AgTigress says:

    What’s the next step for violence prevention? Metal detectors?

    Already happening here.
    And just to make my position clear, both to you and to Snarkhunter, I thoroughly disapprove of the removal of this poem from the syllabus, and agree that, properly taught to receptive pupils, it could have a positive effect.  I simply wanted to give a little more of the background social context.
    Public hysteria is easily aroused where there is a perception of extreme and uncontrollable increase in some kind of crime.  This is never the state of mind in which to make balanced judgements.
    I think comparisons with older ‘classic’ literature, not just Shakespeare or Hardy, but anything written before about 1970 –  are not wholly valid, because to teenagers they are about a completely different world.  Pupils are far less likely to identify with them or relate them to their own lives than in the case of contemporary writing, using modern, colloquial English.

  10. 10
    snarkhunter says:

    I think comparisons with older ‘classic’ literature, not just Shakespeare or Hardy, but anything written before about 1970 – are not wholly valid, because to teenagers they are about a completely different world

    I think you’re absolutely right. (And I figured you were opposed to the banning, so my comment was more generally targeted at the hysterical people in the ether.)

    It’s actually quite annoying, though, if you teach nineteenth-century lit, b/c they can’t understand how/why it relates to them.

  11. 11
    SB Sarah says:

    AgT- I didn’t think you were supporting the removal from the syllabus. I appreciate the context, actually. Whether it’s poetry or giant balls of concrete outside every building or you know, The Patriot Act, I know from knee jerk.

  12. 12
    Marianne McA says:

    I’m really, really bad about literary analysis, so I’m living in a glasshouse and throwing rocks here – but wouldn’t you expect an external examiner at GCSE, when interviewed by a broadsheet, to be able to say something more insightful about the poetry?
    I’m not sure that describing a poem as ‘a bit weird’ would get a student an A*.

    Loved both the poems.

  13. 13
    Carrie Lofty says:

    She described the poem as “a bit weird. But having read her other poems I found they were all a little bit weird. But that’s me”.

    Exactly. That’s just her. One opinion. But then she kicks a fuss and suddenly everyone has to accept that single opinion. If you’re going to have ovaries enough to pull this shit, don’t cop out when you’re called on it. Cowardly. Carol Ann FTW.

    PS—My lit prof at UEA (Norwich, England) had this really broad country accent and said her name like a dude from South Carolina or something. Care’l Aaan Duuufy. I can’t think of her without his voice in my head.

  14. 14
    ev says:

    So will they be banning Sweeny Todd next? It was on many of the summer reading lists here for the jr high/high school kids.

    As for metal detectors- we have had them in schools, in the big cities especially, for years. Not especially a fan, but you do what you have to.

    Overboard on the poem? Most decidedly. The No Tolerance rules here have lead to stupid things too- such as someone being suspended because they had a butter knife in the trunk of the car left over from a picnic. Or you can’t bring a plastic knife with your lunch to school. I keep a multipurpose one in my truck at all times. Touch it. I dare you.

    Banning books/poems only leads to more people wanting to read them. It doesn’t cure what ever problems they seem to be provoking or attached too. Unfortunately, too many people still wear blinders and are unable to see that.

  15. 15
    mirain says:

    … because the students who bother to study for exams are the ones likely to commit knife crimes. Indeed. Perhaps having devoted their careers to literature these examiners are overestimating its influence on the average teen. Don’t more people read the Guardian than peruse poetry? So by this act of censorship they are probably bringing Duffy’s work to a wider audience (not to mention inspiring an amazing poem!). I edited my high school’s writing journal and my senior year we had an edition banned; as soon as the announcement went out over the PA system every copy was snapped up in the 5 minutes before the next period—it was the only year we made more than was spent on the printing costs!

  16. 16
    AgTigress says:

    On the banning-books issue, there used to be good Irish joke on this.  In the days when there was a list of banned books in the Republic (I don’t think there is such a list any more, but I’m not sure!), it was suggested that the way to achieve the wished-for increase in fluent speakers of Irish would be to publish all the banned books, but only in Irish translation.

  17. 17
    natasha b says:

    AgTigress,

    banned books in the Republic

    Shades of Father Ted and The Passion of Saint Tibulus?!!

  18. 18
    Wryhag says:

    That poem, Sarah (by Carol Ann Duffy?), was indeed freakin’ awesome.  Worthy of both admiration and chills.

  19. 19
    xat says:

    So if we ban anything that might possibly contain the echo of a hint of a lagniappe of danger, we’ll all be 100% safe and immortal? And I want a pony that flies and does calculus, no-calorie chocolate, and Johnny Depp to be my cabana boy, as long as we’re fantasizing.

    George Orwell calls it thoughtcrime. To even think of something not approved by the state is punishable.

    We may as well face the reality that life is dangerous and scary and raucous and beautiful and shocking and all these things and more. To ask for complete safety would be a living death. You want safe? Dig an hole, crawl in, and back-fill the dang thing.

    To brush things under the rug doesn’t make the problems go away. Wouldn’t it make more sense to ask why more crimes are being committed with blades, than to point a finger at a poem?

  20. 20

    Poetry doesn’t kill people, people kill people…

    (sorry, that popped into my head and I just couldn’t resist)

  21. 21
    Fay says:

    God, I couldn’t agree more about the PAINFULLY stupid response the woman made. “A bit weird.” Sweet weeping swine of Circe, how did she come to be employed in any exam-marking capacity if that’s the best response to a poem that she can offer?

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