The importance of poetry and reading between the lines
Poets are writing about the “tumultuous events of our day” – Ruth Padel cites Ben Okri’s poem on Grenfell Tower as an example
Poets are writing about the “tumultuous events of our day” – Ruth Padel cites Ben Okri’s poem on Grenfell Tower as an example (In dark times turn to your inner poet, 13 December), and there was Tony Walsh’s moving poem entitled This is the Place, recited after the Manchester Arena bombing. However, the Guardian could do more to boost the impact of poetry. It will always be regarded as an addendum to the arts if the media also regard it as a less important lens.
Just as photos show the terrible horrors of war, a poem on the front page, perhaps alongside a photo, could portray the depths of the lived experience of being in a war zone. I remember the impact of A Cold Coming by Tony Harrison, published by the Guardian in 1991 and again in 2003 – the emotional response created by that poem was seared on to my memory. That is the true power of poetry.
If children see poetry on the front page of a newspaper, perhaps this would encourage them to write.
• There is reading as in deciphering phonics to create words. There is also reading for meaning and enjoyment, a more worthy objective. But there is a third definition – that of reading between the lines. I am delighted to read that children from disadvantaged families are closing the gap with their better-off peers in primary school attainment, albeit at a very slow rate (Poorer pupils catching up with their better-off peers, Sats results show, 14 December)
I am, however, highly suspicious of the inferred connection between these statistics and the teaching of synthetic phonics. Apparently, as the first cohort to have gone through primary school since the government’s blanket introduction of this teaching method, “the first results showed that nearly 90% of those who passed the phonics test taken in year one reached or exceeded the expected standard in reading.” Well, they would wouldn’t they?
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