How schools ruined poetry for everyone


abandoned alone blond building

Photo by Rene Asmussen on


I had to unlearn what I was taught to know poetry.

For me it was my Nan taking down the nets after Grandad died

show, don’t tell the readers what happened to tale heavy eyes of a widow,

show, don’t tell those who look in to what they see are just keyholes of worlds.


School nights for me were moons that dropped like aspirins into a big grey drink,

factory men used to look at me like kin they must seen a poet in me,

they must have seen the malfunctioning child becoming stuck.

They showed without telling me that they were poems.


Classroom 4B, 1984 and a teacher chewing an onion and a poem by Phillip Larkin.

He told us all what Toads were and we jumped to where he told us.

He told without showing us that Larkin was a man of metaphor

that day I remember Ian Chapman fell asleep on blank paper.


Classroom 1F, 1985, and I was told not shown that Robert Frost was a genius.

I felt the snowy wood of my blood capillaries when my Nan disappeared,

she would stare across the Rothmans fog lost, and picture him reading .

She showed me that love is a sect of two people in average rapture,

milling skin to make life that will ultimately pale to city grey.


This is how schools ruined poetry for everyone.

This is how I was shown literal metaphor,

its always a woman with the blood-keys

opening the way, the road of one.

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