Thursday, June 23, 2022


New Poetry Anthology

"GCSE removes Wilfred Owen and Larkin in diversity push," The Times (June 23, 2022):
"What will survive of us is love," Philip Larkin wrote in An Arundel Tomb.

Neither the poem nor the poet, however, has survived a shake-up of works included in a GCSE poetry anthology.

OCR, one of the three main exam boards, has removed works by John Keats, Thomas Hardy, Wilfred Owen and Larkin from its English literature syllabus from this September.

Some poems by Hardy and Keats will remain, but there will be no poetry by Larkin, Seamus Heaney or Owen, whose Anthem for Doomed Youth is on the present syllabus.

The "conflict" section of the anthology contains none of the best known First World War poets, such as Siegfried Sassoon, Rupert Brooke and Robert Graves. Instead, it has new works including We Lived Happily during the War by Ilya Kaminsky, Colonization in Reverse by Louise Bennett Coverly [sic, read Coverley] and Thirteen by Caleb Femi. OCR said 15 new poems were included, 30 retained and 15 removed. The syllabus will be used in exams in the summer of 2024.

The exam board described the new poems as "exciting and diverse", adding: "Our anthology for GCSE English literature students will feature many poets that have never been on a GCSE syllabus before and represent diverse voices, from living poets of British-Somali, British-Guyanese and Ukrainian heritage to one of the first black women in 19th century America to publish a novel. Of the 15 poets whose work has been added, 14 are poets of colour. Six are black women, one is of South Asian heritage. Our new poets also include disabled and LGBTQ+ voices."

The anthology has three themes: love and relationships, conflict, and youth and age. It also retains works by William Blake, Emily Brontë, Sylvia Plath and Carol Ann Duffy and adds the British-Jamaican poet Raymond Antrobus, 36, and Kaminsky, 45, a Ukrainian-American who is deaf.

Works by the British-Somali poet Warsan Shire, 33, and British-Nigerian poet Theresa Lola, 28 — both young people's laureates for London — illustrate the theme of "youth and age".

Judith Palmer, director of the Poetry Society, said: "It's fantastic to see this new selection including poets from such a range of backgrounds and identities, writing in such diverse forms, voices and styles."
GCSE = General Certificate of Secondary Education; OCR = Oxford, Cambridge and Royal Society of Arts

Hat tip: Eric Thomson, who remarks, "'All that will survive of us is love'. If there's much more of this sort of craven pandering, nothing will survive of me but a puddle of bile."

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