Poetry: an exploration ENGLISH COMMON ASSESSMENT TASK, ST STITHIANS BOYS' COLLEGE

"The poem is an invention that exists in spite of history ... In a time of violence, the task of poetry is in some way to reconcile us to our world and to allow us a measure of tenderness and grace with which to exist ... Poetry's task is to reconcile us to the world — not to accept it at face value or to assent to things that are wrong, but to reconcile one in a larger sense, to return us in love, the province of the imagination, to the scope of our mortal lives." (Meena Alexander)

Perhaps Arnold’s most famous piece of literary criticism is his essay “The Study of Poetry.” In this work, Arnold is fundamentally concerned with poetry’s “high destiny;” he believes that “mankind will discover that we have to turn to poetry to interpret life for us, to console us, to sustain us” as science and philosophy will eventually prove flimsy and unstable. Arnold’s belief that poetry should both uplift and console drives the essay’s logic and its conclusions.

Poetry is the essence of each one of us. It helps us to define and understand the complexity of human existence and experience. Poetry expresses rage, love, anger, passion, inspiration and beauty. It is the ultimate truth which allows us to reconcile the hope within ourselves.

Let poetry matter to you, to your children, and let’s together give it a chance to matter to many more children around the world. Be courageous and put your own story, what you are feeling and experiencing right now, into a poem, today. Encourage children to fall in love with poetry by reading aloud to them from the great poets whose names you know, and also the ones who are publishing now on their own, whose names will matter to us because we want to know their stories. Find a way to support children’s stories, poems and voices around the world by championing their right to go to school and to learn to read and write. In this way, we can all break bread with people around the world, through their own voices and their own stories, through the vessels they build with the words they create out of the lives they live. (Huffington Post)

As a Martric student, this is the year when poetry suddenly will gain meaning, because in leaving school (this time-honoured rite of passage), you will try to define how your experiences are unique. You will try to make the measure of it in your own words and when you cannot, you might resort to the words of others...the words of poets.

Others have done this before you, as tributes and as a means of treasuring memories:

Take Mr Weakley's tribute to Mr Snyman, whom you all remember:

Shrek

An enigmatic man of great resources

Came to Saints to cement a career,

To some, his eccentric nature was quite queer

But to those in the know

He was a regular Joe

No pretences; “What you see you get”

And yet…

So much more;

Linesman, coach, psychiatrist, referee, daddy, husband

Umpire, photographer, B baller, Mears Haller, never-say-faller,

Brawler, taller. I wish I was a little bit smaller. Wish I pulled

A rabbit out a hat….

Wait I did that,

Every year deadline time,

The only man who could do them all the night before

Without correction, he knew perfection.

Of a different kind, multi-tasking perfection

Old school resurrection.

I see his toothless grin

Cleft chin…

As he comes at me guttering choking drowning.

Still clowning

As he smiles a friendly hello.

Willing to put aside

Personal woes

For hellos.

I forgot computer support, old sport…

We’ll miss your coke addiction, risqué interests

And Pinterest affliction.

You remain a mathematics teacher par excellence

Let nobody look askance

At your ability, intention, direction.

Quintessential schoolmaster

Deals with

Triumph and disaster

And treats those two imposters

Without blame.

I will challenge your one-word-

Introspection/biography of

Perverse

to diverse!

My friend…

Please ensconce your family in the warm embrace

Of the Indian Ocean

Let its motion

Lull you

Away from stress.

To a place where

Less

Is more…

And Mr Ross defined the Matric Class of 2016 in his immortal words:

A mere 5 years ago

You were all much younger boys;

Tripping your way into grade 8

With a high-pitched unbroken noise.

It wasn’t very long

Till you blended into the school.

You learnt right from wrong

While still trying to be cool.

You’ve sat through many chapels

And screamed many a war cry.

You cried at several sports games

But flew the Saints flag high.

You’ve had many ups and downs

But that’s what makes it great.

This means you’ll leave the school

With very little to hate.

But it’s not all smiles and sunshine -

Some things made you scream;

Like oral moderation

Or that endless ORT.

You stayed up late at night -

Into your brain you burnt some holes

In preparing for your various pracs

Or Mrs Webster’s fishbowls.

There are things that caused you pains

Like the novel ‘Absolution’.

The mention of a portfolio

Will make you start a revolution.

And then of course the rules:

Let’s not get started on hair,

The drive for skinny school pants

Or the silly season ‘mare.

There were things you didn't even try

(That you simply just gave up on)

Like roasting Mr Moodley

Or being late for Mrs Upton.

But you came, you saw, you conquered

And never missed a beat.

Having you part of this family

Has certainly been a treat.

I’m not only talking about Tom

When I say you’ve left large shoes to fill.

I’m sure you’d do it all again

If left to your own free will.

It’s time that I shut up

And let you enjoy this do

Greg Matthews if you could come up

I now hand over to you

The CAT Task: and opportunity

The CAT gives you an opportunity to evaluate how poetry changes, enforces or confirms your ideas/beliefs/feelings about an individually chosen topic/ theme. Put rather blandly, this means that you are going to embark on an exploration of yourself and how poetry is able to define the place that you occupy in the world. It is your life, your experiences, your hopes and your aspirations.

To Start:

Gather poems that articulate your focus area (your passions, your drive and your inspirations). How do they reach the heart of who you are?

These are required for the start of next term, so use the holiday for some introspection. You have also been given a pack to guide you through the process. For any queries, speak to your teacher. Immerse yourself in words and in doing so, hopefully you will learn something about yourself.

Created By
Courtney Watson
Appreciate

Credits:

Created with images by BarbaraBonanno - "typewriter typing black and white"

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