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This article is taken from PN Review 240, Volume 44 Number 4, March - April 2018.

Peter Scupham, Teacher
Peter Blegvad
Peter taught English at the school I was lucky to attend as a teenager. I’d never loved going to school before, and I haven’t since. It was an unusual place – co-educational, vegetarian, pacifist (founded by Quaker-Theosophists), permissive and ‘progressive’. It was also an unusual time, the mid- to late sixties, a time of political and creative ferment. There was a heady sense of promise in the air which classes, conversations, amateur theatrics and occasional soirées with Peter nourished.

Peter is justly celebrated as a poet, but I would like to pay homage here to his genius as a teacher. He made his passion for literature – for the life of the mind – highly contagious, successfully communicating it to many dozens of us. Years later, inspired by his example, I worked as a teacher myself, doing what I could to pass the virus on in turn.

In 1969, aged seventeen, I was very much under Peter’s spell. I was keen on the Beats, but Peter enlarged my scope. Yeats was the key. Peter really brought Yeats to life in his classes. I began to acquire those handsome Macmillan hardbacks, the poetry, the essays, the autobiographies, the mythologies, and within a few terms I was happily saturated. I swapped my hippie motley for a tie and jacket, affected an Irish brogue, and began to imitate the cadences of Per Amica Silentia Lunae1 in my essays. My pal Ross Campbell and I even went to Sligo with bicycles, to the Yeats Summer School, where we tried to raise Yeats’ spirit with a Ouija board. As Scupham said to ...

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