Is this Poetry? … More Like Sickeningly Pretentious Twaddle

Peter Davis

Some time ago, we posted some surprisingly easy, politically correct science papers on the blog HERE, HERE , HERE and HERE.

Now, I have, very unfortunately, had to do several poems from this book called the ‘anthology’ for GCSE English, and the poems I have to do are just disgusting: just take this one, by a “Simon Armitage”:


I’d been tired, under
the weather, but the ansaphone kept screaming:
One more sick-note, mister, and you’re finished. Fired.
I thumbed a lift to where the car was parked.
A Vauxhall Astra. It was hired.

I picked him up in Leeds.
He was following the Sun to west from east
with just a toothbrush and the good earth for a bed. The truth,
he said, was blowin’ in the wind,
or round the next bend.

I let him have it
on top of the road out of Harrogate – once
with the head, then six times with the krooklok
in the face – and didn’t even swerve.
I dropped it into third

and leant across
to let him out, and saw him in the mirror
bouncing off the kerb, then dissapearing down the verge.
We were the same age, give or take a week.
He’d said he liked the breeze

to run its fingers
through his hair. It was twwlve noon.
The outlook for the day was moderate and fair.
Stitch that, I remember thinking,
you can walk from there.

How can this be accepted at poetry?

Who was the smart-arse who put this and things like this into this book? What do you suppose 14- and 15-year-olds are supposed to write about this, commeniting on “how the author uses language to convey emotion and feeling”?

More examples of terrible poems like this are:

Havisham – Carol Ann Duffy

Vultures – Chimua Achebe

And many others that I can’t be bothered to write up. You can learn about the “anthology” here.


  1. I’m having to go through all of this now due to my sixteen year-old sister, who will soon be sitting her GCSE exams. She’s very literate, in fact exceptional compared to most people her age, but as she told me the other day someone at her school suggested she get tested for dyslexia.

    For what reason I don’t know, perhaps they were just following protocol. She was quite concerned I think, she’s someone who takes pride in reading and writing. I told her quite strernly to disregard such comments. I acknowledge some people struggle with literacy, but I don’t believe dyslexia has any real pathology. It’s just a byproduct of misalignment.

    Nah, the poem’s not very inspiring. I think the best answers in these cases are just those based on the merits Peter. It’s only for quantification and certification, that’s it really.

  2. Funnily enough, I got sent a letter a bit like the suggestion that you received saying that I have ‘special needs’ in regards to learning, which is total crap since I am in high sets for many of my classes, so to be honest I think schools are making a complete hash of everything, and the syllabus is also crap, as its all full of things like ‘Were all going to die from global warming and its all the western world’s fault’ and ‘All the oil is going to run out and we will be sent back into the stone-age, and its all the western world’s fault’ etc, you probably get the point now.

    • There are even worse poems than this one, in the “anthology”. The young man can’t be arsed to type them for they are so terrifyingly sad and bad, but I might if he is not careful. “Sylvia Plath”, “Carol Ann Duffy”, Simon Armitage”….Imtiaz Dharker” … who, for goodness sake, has heard of these Stalinist losers?

  3. They’re probably just trying to make it contemporary. I’ve got awkward opinions on poetry anyway, and I think it’s safe to say that at least 50% of it is crap. Some of it is really good though, although no verse in particular springs to mind.

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