Letter: Well versed in the new English curriculum

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Sir: Children appreciate rhyme and rhythm and a good story, and I see nothing anti-educational in their being introduced to verse that possesses all these qualities, or in being introduced to poetry in this way. It is better than nothing, which is precisely what many children are now offered, too busy with their computers to listen to words.

It is easy for James Fenton (19 April) to sneer at, to poke fun at The Highwayman and all verse not now 'PC'. I certainly do not consider Alfred Noyes a great poet, but I do remember the magic of his poem Sherwood, and Newbolt's Fighting Temeraire, which I discovered for myself when I was nine. In class we read Masefield's Sea Fever, de la Mare's The Listeners, but also 'When icicles hang by the wall' and 'When daisies pied and violets blue' (nobody saw fit to explain why married men feared the sound of the cuckoo]), and Blake's The Tyger, which puzzled us at 11. Between 9 and 11 we appreciated verse mostly for its sound and for a story told in it, the two principal constituents of poetry to attract children and the unsophisticated.

Enjoying such verse led to the reading of the Romantics in adolescence and then to 20th-century poetry. We are not all going to be poets when we grow up. Of the adults I have taught who read poetry still, it is usually because they were entranced in childhood by minor verse.

Yours sincerely,


London, SE3

19 April