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the pioneer of Dylan Studies; writer, public speaker, critic; became a Doctor of Letters in 2015 (awarded by the University of York, UK)

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007


I'm just off back to Georgia, mostly to revisit, with Sarah and without any work to do, the places I explored alone while trying to follow in Willie McTell's footsteps while writing Hand Me My Travelin' Shoes. I'm away till October 1st, and may well not post a blog entry in the interim.

Meanwhile there should be short articles by Andrew Motion and me in this Saturday's Times (Sept 22), to do with Dylan's literary credentials. This is tied in with National Poetry Day and the Education Pack that has been produced to try to teach Dylan's lyrics in British schools.

I haven't seen the pack, which is no doubt well-intentioned, but I do wonder whether teachers telling Kids that Bob is Cool is a good idea. People find him without his being officialised, which is probably counter-productive. I'd ban Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Wordsworth and Dickens from all classrooms, so that more people would discover and come to love and enjoy their work, instead of being put off for life.

Go to National Poetry Day's website and the first face you see is Ian MacMillan's. God help us when he's supposed to be the conduit into an appreciation of poetry for Today's Yoof.

It isn't just him, of course. Try looking up the wacky work of Brian Moses. (His "poem" 'Shopping Trolley' begins as it means to go on: "Scoot down the aisles / in my shopping trolley, / I could go for miles / in my shopping trolley. // Never say excuse me, / never say please, / ram it in the back / of someone's knees."

All this sometimes-slightly-rude versifying that's meant to be "what the kids love" is, as we literary critics say, crap. In my opinion it's a shameful measurement of the failure of the British education system that (a) any kids "love" it and (b) any teachers appease their pupils' de-sensitised appetites by offering them this at all, let alone calling it poetry.

Yours till October,
Another grumpy old man.


Blogger thom said...

Seconded! I remember at about the same time as I was trying to figure out why 'when you're lost in the rain In Juarez ...' moved me so much i was also trying to climb the glass walll of understanding posed by my first reading of Hopkin's 'Wreck of the deutschland'. 30 years on I am still on the enjoyable and educative quest to understand both works - and that I think defines one of the pleasures of real art.

4:57 pm  

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