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This report is taken from PN Review 199, Volume 37 Number 5, May - June 2011.

Letter from Wales Sam Adams
Our grandchildren submit with reasonably good grace to regular questioning about their schoolwork, although their answers are usually vague. Impressions left by most of the week's lessons seem shallow almost to the point of disappearance. Perhaps this is as it should be. I usually ask what poems they have read, or have had read aloud to them. None. Even when (very infrequently) they are asked to write a poem, they do not read poems as preparation. They are now in the first and third year respectively of comprehensive school, but the answer was the same when they were juniors. Have they perhaps forgotten the poem read or heard on Monday by the following weekend? I have to acknowledge that possibility, but I do not think it the case. And I am confident that when they say they have not looked at poems in an anthology as a class, they are neither forgetful nor fibbing. Is there no time for poetry in the contemporary curriculum, at least until an examination syllabus demands it? Is fear a factor - fear that children do not like poetry? Or are teachers afraid?

Is the experience of our grandchildren untypical, I wonder? Do other schools preserve the weekly poetry lesson, which was the norm throughout my days as pupil and teacher? At Abercerdin Boys' Elementary School in the mid-1940s, the best time of the week was Friday afternoon when Mr Williams read poems to us. They were mostly narrative poems of the sort we ...


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