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This review is taken from PN Review 82, Volume 18 Number 2, November - December 1991.

GUPPY & GRADGRIND John Parry, Interchange: A Practical Resource for Critical Interpretation (Hodder & Stoughton) non-net
John King, Poetry Workshop (Foulsham Educational) non-net
R.K. Sadler & T.A.S. Hayllar, Poetry for Pleasure (Macmillan Australia)
David Orme & James Sale, Poetry Street 1 (Longman) non-net
Wider than the Sky, edited by Scott Elledge (Harper & Row) $19.95

Imagine (you may not have to) that you are a teacher and writer. Messrs Guppy & Gradgrind, publishers, would like you to compile an anthology of poetry for schoolchildren (their terms are stingy but par for the course): it's something you've always secretly wanted to do. Suddenly, however, you are confronted by a number of rather basic difficulties. One instinct tells you to include the best poems you can find; another warns you that schoolbooks can have an off-putting effect, reminds you that you discovered your favourite authors outside and after school, cautions against 'spoiling' great literature. However, you tell yourself, some of these kids may never pick up another book of poetry: you ought to give them the best. But if they don't read on, your anthology will have failed anyway. What about organization? Should it be chronological or thematic or random? And where to draw the line between literature and popular culture, if one should be drawn at all?

On the last question, though I once tried to pretend otherwise, I think you should be absolutely clear: avoid all pop and slop and rap and crap. The young can find the pop culture they need elsewhere, and if you try to win them over by including it you will appear ingratiating, patronizing, and probably get it subtly wrong in any case (admit, if you must, a nostalgic affection for The Beatles to show that you were young once). As for the rest, even Guppy & ...


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