Tuesday, 5 February 2008

The precocity of my offspring - 2

"Daddy, I did recite Shelley's 'Ozymandias' to them, but they [her 9-year old schoolfellows] said I was weird."

Alas, I remember similar conversations when I was in junior school.

Mind you, a good memory for poetry can have unexpected advantages. Many years ago, on a sultry Indonesian night, there was a knock at my door. I opened it to reveal a charming young lady, to whom my name had been passed by her elder sister who was in one of my TEFL classes.

"I'm sorry to bother you" she said "But I'm studying English at Sanata Dharma University, and our poetry lecturer's set a very tough assignment. Could you explain an English poem to me, as all our native speakers are American and haven't got a clue what it means?"

"Poetry, eh?" I drawled, twirling my moustache rakishly (This is too easy, I though ter m'self). Come in. Now - what is the poem that you're having problems with?" hoping that it might be some decadent cavalier poem dealing with assorted naughtiness which would need demonstration.

"It's by Wilfred Owen." She replied. "It's called 'Anthem for Doomed Youth'."

"What passing bells for those who die as cattle?
Only the monstrous anger of the guns,
Only the stuttering rifles' rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons."

"Gosh. You're so clever. Forgive me a moment while I remove all my clothes."

Well, OK, actually she didn't say that last bit, but she was pretty damn impressed. We've now been married ten years. On the downside, the elder sister who was responsible for introducing us now claims that the only thing she can remember from any of my classes was the day I turned up in a cheap shirt bought from a local street market and then turned to write something on the whiteboard, upon which the room was filled with an entertaining noise of ripping cloth and I was revealed from waist to armpit by a failed seam.


No Good Boyo said...

Owen was an oikish Welsh ingrate with an appalling sense of timing.

He also could not spell - "orisons", indeed.

We're all very proud of him back home.

Sounds like you got off likely with the shirt incident. Could have been your britches.

I once managed to relieve myself all over my trousers at a party, and decided drunkenly that it would be ok to cover it up by pouring water on the garment.

I then squelched about the dance floor, puzzled at my lack of pulling.

I'd have had better luck by reciting "Strange Meeting".

What sort of poetry's do your daughter's peers prefer, then?

Gyppo Byard said...

I don't know that they read poetry at all, tragically. Which is a shame considering how much good poetry for kids is around these days - Michael Rosen, Julia Donaldson and James Carter to name but three.