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A view on poetry teaching from our newest Life Member

Posted by Garry Collins, ETAQ Immediate Past President on 21 March 2014

This post is made on behalf of Paul Sherman OAM, ETAQ's newest Life Member. Like an earlier post, it is a letter to The Australian in response to an opinion piece by Christopher Bantick. The paper did not choose to publish it.

Paul was elected a Life Member at this year's Annuanl General Meeting on 15 March and it is planned that the award be formally conferred at this year's State Conference on Saturday 16 August.

Poetry Lives in Schools

As an 80-year-old retired actor and teacher, who is still invited to schools to perform plays and poems, I question Christopher Bantick (The Australian, l5-16/3/14 "Dying Light of Poetry") on his statement that few schools teach poetry. I also wonder at the basis for his claim that poetry (“is badly taught, or not taught at all." lf few schools teach it, how does he know it is badly taught?

I'm now preparing for a visit to Ouyen P-12 College in Victoria's Mallee, where I've been asked to present poems of John Kinsella to Year 12's. Last year at Tully State High School in North Qld I shared with keen Grade 8's poems of Oodgeroo Noonuccal (formerly Kath Walker), whom I had the honour of once knowing on her Qld island of Minjerribah ("Stradbroke").

Last year in Brisbane schools I had sessions ranging from England's Keats to America's Robert Frost to our own Judith Wright, Bruce Dawe and others. A couple of years ago in England's Lincolnshire I found students very responsive to our Banjo Paterson. I can't share Christopher's view that the Banjo and Henry Lawson "have not stood the test of time." Sadly, Henry was at times "the drunk" that Christopher calls him, but I'm glad that in his sober sessions he wrote poems that the good old Sydney Bulletin was proud to print.

Paul Sherman
Wooloowin QLD

In his letter to the paper, Paul noted that:

  • For identification: your paper published my name among this year's Australia Day awards for OAM, "for services to the Arts as poet and playwright, and to Education." In your Australian Literary Review of March, 2009, you published my poem, "Three Sisters Still."
Author: Garry Collins, ETAQ Immediate Past President
About: Garry was ETAQ President from July 2005 to 15 March 2014 and is currently President of AATE. After teaching in EQ high schools for around 35 years, he is now a sessional tutor in the School of Education at the University of Queensland.
Tags: Curriculum matters
Fiona Laing 1623 days ago
I invite Christopher Bantick to attend a few ETAQ seminars and conferences where poetry is always on the menu, an important part of the balanced diet that is subject English.

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