The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 19.0535  Wednesday, 10 September 2008

From:       Susanne Greenhalgh <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:       Saturday, 06 Sep 2008 09:14:19 +0100
Subject:    Carol Ann Duffy's New Shakespeare Poem

Following the controversial removal of a Carol Ann Duffy poem 'Education for 
Leisure' from a British exam board GCSE curriculum because it depicts a young 
person killing a fly (there is an oblique reference to King Lear) and then going 
out with a knife, Duffy has published another poem for the first time in 
Saturday's Guardian. It's called 'Mrs Schofield's GCSE' (referring to one of the 
complainers, who is a teacher) and is made up of references to violent acts in 

You can read it here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2008/sep/06/poetry.gcses

Susanne Greenhalgh,
Principal Lecturer,
Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies,
Roehampton University, London.

[Editor's Note: I was intrigued by Susanne's post, so I looked up a bit about 
the original poem and the controversy. See the following for details. -Hardy]

1.) Carol Ann Duffy - Study Guide



This guide is written for students and teachers who are preparing for GCSE exams 
in English literature. It contains detailed studies of the poems by Carol Ann 
Duffy in the AQA Anthology, which is a set text for the AQA's GCSE syllabuses 
for English and English Literature Specification A, from the 2004 exam onwards.

[ . . . ]

Carol Ann Duffy was born on December 23 1955, in Glasgow, Scotland's largest 
city. Carol Ann was the eldest child, and had four brothers. She was brought up 
in Stafford, in the north midlands, where her father was a local councillor, a 
parliamentary candidate for the Labour Party in 1983 and manager of Stafford FC, 
an amateur football team. Carol Ann Duffy was educated at St. Austin Roman 
Catholic Primary School, St. Joseph's Convent School and Stafford Girls' High 
School. In 1974 she went Liverpool University, where she read philosophy.

She has worked as a freelance writer in London, after which she moved to live in 
Manchester, where she currently (2002) teaches creative writing at the 
Metropolitan University. Her first collection of poetry was Standing Female Nude 
(1985), followed by Selling Manhattan (1987), The Other Country (1990), Mean 
Time (1993), The World's Wife (1999) and The Feminine Gospels (2002). She has 
also written two English versions of Grimm's folk tales, and a pamphlet, A 
Woman's Guide to Gambling, which reflects her interest in betting.

[ . . . ]

Anne Hathaway

Anne Hathaway (1556-1623) was a real woman - famous for being the wife of 
William Shakespeare. (We do know some things about her - she was nine years 
older than her husband, but outlived him by seven years. They married in 1582, 
when Anne was already pregnant, and had three children together. Although 
Shakespeare spent many years working in London, he made frequent visits to their 
home in Stratford-upon-Avon.)

In the poem Anne sees her relationship with Shakespeare in terms of his own 
writing. She uses the sonnet form (though she does not follow all the 
conventions of rhyme or metre) which Shakespeare favoured. She suggests that as 
lovers they were as inventive as Shakespeare was in his dramatic poetry - and 
their bed might contain "forests, castles, torchlight", "clifftops" and "seas 
where he would dive for pearls." These images are very obviously erotic, and Ms. 
Duffy no doubt expects the reader to interpret them in a sexual sense. [ . . . ]

Education for Leisure

This powerful poem explores the mind of a disturbed person, who is planning 
murder. We do not know if the speaker is male or female, though this barely 
seems to matter. What we do know is that he (or she) has a powerful sense of his 
own importance, and a greater sense of grievance that no one else notices him. 
The poem contrasts the speaker's deluded belief in his own abilities with the 
real genius that is creative. We do not know if the poem is based on any real 
person, though it has echoes of the true story of the young American woman who 
shot dead several of her classmates, and when asked about her reasons answered, 
"I don't like Mondays" [ . . . ]

The poem's title seems ironic - we see that the speaker's education has done him 
little good. It has not enabled him to find work, nor to cope with the boredom 
of enforced "leisure." But this may not be the fault of the school and teachers 
- if the response to King Lear is anything to go by (remembering a metaphor to 
justify the violence against which it was meant to be a protest).

2.) Poet's rhyming riposte leaves Mrs Schofield 'gobsmacked'
Esther Addley
The Guardian,
Saturday September 6, 2008


"Today I am going to kill something," says the unnamed protagonist of Carol Ann 
Duffy's poem Education for Leisure. "Anything. / I have had enough of being 
ignored and today / I am going to play God."

Duffy, one of Britain's most admired poets, might have been tempted this week to 
feel the same way, following the news that the exam board AQA had ordered 
schools to remove from its GCSE curriculum an anthology containing the poem 
because it supposedly glorified knife crime.

[ . . . ]

"What it seems to me to be saying is that Shakespeare - the greatest writer - 
some of his stuff is a bit dangerous [too]," Duffy's literary agent Peter 
Strauss said yesterday. "It's saying, look at what's been written previously 
before you criticise this."

3.) Top exam board asks schools to destroy book containing knife poem
Polly Curtis, education editor
The Guardian,
Thursday September 4, 2008


Britain's biggest exam board has been accused of censorship after it removed a 
poem containing references to knife crime from the GCSE syllabus.

Officials at the AQA board said their request that schools destroy the anthology 
containing the Carol Ann Duffy poem Education for Leisure had been triggered by 
concerns in two schools about references to knives. A spokeswoman confirmed the 
decision had been made in the context of the current spate of knife-related murders.

[ . . . ]

S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
Hardy M. Cook, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
The S H A K S P E R Web Site <http://www.shaksper.net>

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