One of the most striking legacies of Ireland’s education system is how rhymes and verse were instilled in young people.
Even to this day, many from an older generation can still recall the exact words of poems that they first recited back before Ireland was declared a republic.
But is poetry as we know it under threat? Next door in the UK, significant controversy arose after the work of Philip Larkin and Wilfred Owen was removed from the GCSE curriculum. Their subject matter is deemed irrelevant and inaccessible for students. Their poetry is now seen to have no place in our modern world.
Is one symptom of our advancement a short memory? If we alter the poetry we learn, are we at risk of tampering with the past?
Perhaps poetry plays more of a role than we give it credit for. For children across Ireland, Seamus Heaney’s Mid Term Break offers many their first introduction to the difficult topic of childhood grief.
From the 1916 rising to the Troubles, modern understanding of extremely complex events in history is navigated through the skillful words of masters such as WB Yeats, Eavan Boland and Brendan Kennelly. Ireland is lucky to have a claim on world-revered poets who have all left immense legacies for us to remember.
For many, our understanding of World War One was formed by the powerful words of poets who called authority into question. They are now custodians for the legacy of a war that claimed the lives of an estimated 49,400 Irishmen. Will their words soon be deemed irrelevant too?
Who should we entrust to document history, a poet or a politician? Who bends and erases the truth and who masterfully captures it?
While many remember poetry as another tiresome feature of their school days, perhaps we shouldn’t underestimate the importance of it. Some traditions are worth keeping.
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