Tag Archives: students

Is Pop Poetry?

The media recently carried a story concerning the singer Taylor Swift and how her music is to be studied at the University of Texas alongside the works of Chaucer, Shakespeare and Keats. An example of the coverage can be found here, https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/music/news/taylor-swift-university-degree-texas-b2151492.html.

I am no musical snob. The music of Oasis, the Beatles, REM, Dido, Edele and Lana Del Rey all give me pleasure, and I frequently listen to the forgoing artists (along with many others) whilst relaxing at home.

Much pop music uses rhyme to great effect and the poet in me responds to the use of rhyme and rhythm in popular music. Some artists have produced works of poetry. See, for example Lana Del Ray’s Violet Bent Over the Grass Backwards, https://www.waterstones.com/book/violet-bent-backwards-over-the-grass/lana-del-rey/9781471199660.

Despite my enjoyment of pop music, it is, on the whole distinct from poetry and should not be conflated with it. The University of Texas has decided to offer a course on Taylor Swift’s work alongside that of some of the literary greats, including John Keats and William Shakespeare. On this logic why are not the Beatles or Lana Del Ray’s music being offered? One has to have in place some objective criteria for determining what constitutes literature (of the poetic variety) as distinct from music. If one does not, then Pandora’s Box is opened and all music can (potentially) be studied as poetry.

The distinctions between poetry and music are, of course fluid and many poems have been set to music. See, for example A. E. Housman’s Bredon Hill, https://www.oxfordlieder.co.uk/song/4407. However, whilst music is often poetic (or frequently contains poetic elements), it is not poetry, it is music.

Let me confess that I am not a fan of Taylor Swift’s music. I accept she is a talented singer/musician, however her lyrics do not uplift and/or inspire me. I could, of course say the same as regards certain poets. However, whilst their work leaves me cold, I do recognise it as falling under the category of poetry. In the case of Taylor Swift I do not.

From my own admittedly highly subjective perspective, I do not see the music of Swift being widely listened to in 50-100 years time, whilst the poetry of Philip Larkin, T. S. Eliot and W. H. Auden will, I feel sure continue to be read and appreciated.

There are those who argue that funding for higher education should be directed only (or primarily) to those courses that constitute “value for money”. On this view business and management courses should be prioritised over arts courses as the earning power of graduates taking business courses is (on the whole) greater than those who graduate with a degree in fine art or English Literature. I do not share this view. However, I do worry that studying Taylor Swift alongside the literary greats plays into the hands of those who see little (if any value) in English Literature as a degree.

As always, I would appreciate the views of my readers.

There Once Was an Eminent Old Professor

There once was an eminent old professor
Who lived in a large Welsh Dresser.
His student Maude
Got terribly bored
With polishing that dresser and her professor!

They did it because

A young student ‘twas
Who did it because
She had spent her loan
And being alone,
Took a decision rash
To raise some cash.

A man of the world he was
Who did it because
He saw
Just another she
– Merely a whore,
For what does it matter
When a girl’s dreams shatter?

An Ordinary Girl

The paper is peeling
And the ceiling
Is dirty grey.
“How long will you stay?”
He asks. “What will you pay?”
I say.
Shall I be nice
And offer him a lower price?

Its so easy to pretend
To be “a friend”
When you’ve done this for a while.
You smile
And lose yourself in drink
Or think
Of Coins
And gird your loins.

Having wrangled
I lie
In the sheet.
“You are sweet”
I say,
Thinking of my pay.

Me in jeans
On the bus, with my university books.
No one looks
At an ordinary girl,
Her head in a whirl
Over forthcoming exams,
And last night’s scenes.

Don’t Blame The Mirror

Earlier today I came across the following post which caused me to think about whether I, as a writer have a moral responsibility regarding my writing, http://dverted.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/a-writers-moral-responsibility-what-is.html. Do I bare any moral responsibility if a reader of one of my stories takes it upon himself to break the law?

To take a concrete example. In my story, Samantha, http://www.amazon.com/Samantha-K-Morris-ebook/dp/B00BL3CNHI, Sam is date raped and blackmailed into becoming a prostitute. To ensure authenticity I researched GHB (a date rape drug) and included in my story details of how the drug works. Am I morally culpable if a reader of Samantha takes what I have written concerning GHB and employs that knowledge to commit rape? The answer has to be no as the information concerning GHB is freely available online (I gleaned my information from a site aimed at warning women of the dangers of date rape and furnishing information on how to avoid being subjected to it). Most people accessing such information will do so for legitimate reasons (E.G. to avoid becoming a victim of crime). A minority will, however access the information with the malign intent to commit a criminal act. This is deplorable and anyone guilty of rape ought to be severely punished. Rape destroys lives (literally)! Having said that I can not be held responsible if someone uses information contained in Samantha to commit the horrendous crime of rape. Where writers to be held liable for the actions of the mentally ill or the criminally minded we would, as authors be constantly looking over our shoulders (watching what we write) and the creative process would wither and die. Samantha merely reflects what, sadly happens all to frequently up and down the land, the story holds up a mirror to society, it is not responsible for what is reflected back however ugly the reflection may be.

In my story The First Time, http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-First-Time-K-Morris-ebook/dp/B00FJGKY7Y, Becky, a young graduate becomes an escort (a kind of prostitute) in order to pay off her creditors. If a student or graduate saddled with debt reads The First Time and sees in it a way out of their money problems am I responsible in any manner for their decision to enter the sex industry? Again the answer has to be an emphatic no. The First Time does, as with Samantha hold up a mirror to society reflecting it back, warts and all. Students are getting into debt and an admittedly tiny proportion of them are turning to various forms of sex work including (but not limited to) prostitution. It is the financial situation in which female (and a few male) students find themselves, not my writing which acts as the catalyst for their entry into prostitution.

So do we as writers have any moral responsibility? To me the primary role of the writer is to tell a good story without pulling any punches. The writer who Is constantly fearful of the reaction of others will not give of their best. The fact of the matter is that someone, somewhere will be offended by something or other. We can not, as authors be forever walking on egg shells. We do, however have a duty to be true to ourselves, to tell the best tale we can and to behave with integrity.

Deadly Books

As a book lover I really feel for the lady in this article, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2521221/Opening-book-kill-English-student-forced-drop-university-potentially-fatal-dust-allergy.html. Imagine not being able to pursue your chosen subject, literature due to being allergic to the dust generated by old tomes. My immediate thought was to the effect “why can’t the lady read books on a Kindle avoiding the need to open dusty books?” On reflection I assume that not all of the books required for this student’s course are available as ebooks. I wish this lady well in her studies (she has moved to another course and is now studying from home).