Showing posts from October, 2012

An Ear for Poetry

Has the noisy modern world drowned out our ear for poetry? I suspect not. While it may be true that contemporary society both fears and yearns for silence, it is also clear to me that performance poetry, poetry slams, and many other street manifestations such as that of griots and rapping, are alive and well.  While traditional poetry presents a variety of obstacles to the modern reader, we should not forget the appeal of the ear that chimes so well with popular contemporary consciousness, and indeed constitutes a significant public domain for the exchange of ideas, thoughts, and feelings. These sentiments are leading me to reconsider one of our greatest but most neglected poets: Dryden. In the Preface to the 1945 edition of his book J ohn Dryden: A Study of his Poetry , Mark van Doren wrote  "We have cults of sensibility and sincerity; we are marvellously responsive to ambiguities; we know how to plot the oblique course, to surprise words into revealing three senses wh

Your Practical Revision Timetable

  Sample Revision Plan Template for students taking exams   Days to Exam ACTIVITY 100 Rewire your confidence – you are destined for exam genius by using skills 99 Write down your motivational factors and your reward-for-work system 98 Acquire copies of past exam papers and grade criteria 97 Decide how you will avoid distractions and gain by working in short bursts 96 Custom design a practical and realistic revision timetable 95 Ensure you have knowledge & understanding of the exam board's success criteria 93 Make a list of all key topics and themes 90 Make lists of key words for arguments, concepts & connectives 85 Finish re-reading key texts; finish any secondary/background   reading 80 Copy notes & any highlights from books to one source 70 Re-arrange notes

The gentle art of reading and writing blogs

Because there are now millions of free blogs we have the opportunity to dip into lots of different kinds of writing and to sample quite different approaches to recurring topics or themes. Doing this kind of reading randomly can have wonderful results. It's called serendipity which involves surprise discoveries and unexpected connections. Serendipity is, of course, an eighteenth century word (1754). While we may consider that the period of the Enlightenment was obsessed with reason, system, order and process, the variety of different kinds of topical, fictional and journalistic writing offered many opportunities for fluid expression by creative people and mercurial personalities. Serendipity is also a useful strategy for broadening your interests and for avoiding the so-called writer's block. I believe that all great writers are also intelligent critical readers. I despair when I hear people saying that they want to write, but then proceed to say that they are not

Witty Will-power and Bardic Gender Politics

Shakespeare in Love with Puns The second part of my exploration of rudeness in Shakespeare couples Sonnet 135 with a discussion of his work written by Dr Samuel Johnson in 1765 In this poem 'Will' is punned in a variety of senses: (1) willpower; (2) Will Shakespeare; (3) a bequest; (4) the penis; (5) future/s. Sense (4) is the one that you are least likely to encounter in discussions that want to shield readers from the reality of the eroticised encounter with the male genitalia.  Whoever hath her wish, thou hast thy Will, And Will to boot, and Will in overplus; More than enough am I, that vex thee still, To thy sweet will making addition thus. Wilt thou, whose will is large and spacious Not once vouchsafe to hide my will in thine? Shall will in others seem right gracious, And in my will no fair acceptance shine? The sea, all water, yet receives rain still, And in abundance addeth to his store; So thou, being rich in Will, add to thy Will One will of mine, t

Rude Shakespeare

For the British establishment Shakespeare occupies a central place in 'our' culture and heritage. He is our national bard, and he is a genius of global significance. His image is international; it is a global brand. His plays are perfomed everywhere, and as the recent international season at the London Globe demonstrated, the plays are constantly open to creative interpretations that resonate with multiple meanings for a diversity of contemporary cultural, geographical, social, and ethnic groups. It's not surprising that his plays are complusory across most of English literary education in schools and in Universities. It is also why he was crucial to the Opening Ceremony at the 2012 Olympics. It is also why we need to constantly remind ourselves that Shakespeare rightly belongs to the people - to a global community of ordinary folk - and not just to the British elite, to the middle classes, and to the commercialised heritage industry. Working recently with a group o