Roald Dahl’s poetry – a forgotten gem

I’ve been falling love with Revolting Rhymes again. I remember loving it as a child, watching the VHS animated versions over and over again – my mum must have been absolutely sick of them.   Teaching a Year 9 unit on character, I’ve returned to some of them. It’s a challenging unit about re-imagining characters. A typical series of lessons, for example, will have us look at the original Pygmalian story, read a section of Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalian, watch a section of My Fair Lady, explore Duffy’s ‘Galatea’ and then write their own monologue of Galatea coming to life. I …

Sonnet 29 analysis – Elizabeth Barrett Browning AQA GCSE

Context: Elizabeth Barrett Browning was a Victorian poet, incredibly successful and celebrated in her time, both by the public and literary critics – she was the one other female poets were measured against. Perhaps her most famous and enduring collection is Sonnets from the Portugese, which was a collection of love poems written to Robert Browning – the one who wrote Porphyria’s Lover. They were in love at a distance for a long time, partly because her family disapproved of the relationship (she was disinherited following her marriage) and partly because she was quite an invalid, suffering from severe illness …

Climbing My Grandfather: analysis AQA Love and Relationships

Context: Waterhouse is a contemporary poet; this was written in 2000, just before he died aged 41. Andrew Waterhouse was a concerned environmentalist, studying an MSc in Environmental Science and this follows through into his poetry. A review written after his death said that “His imagination is both vivid and uncluttered.” He uses his love of nature to inform his imagery. “The world their writer imagines is full of solid objects and hard edges – stones, wood, frozen ground – which offer little purchase to its inhabitants. These may be familiar problems of modernity, but both the strength and the …

Shelley’s Love’s Philosophy: analysis and linked text ideas

Percy Bysshe (“Bish”, apparently) Shelley is a Romantic poet – the capital R meaning not necessarily overcome with love all the time, but part of a group of poets who took a particular attitude towards life. They used a lot of natural imagery, thought and wrote about the excesses of emotion, and were often a little melodramatic. Shelley also has some extremely scandalous personal life-stories, which I’ve found great hooks for students! He was married to Harriet, when she was 16, and they had two children together before he abandoned her for Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin – also 16 at the …

Revising poetry collections: comparison

I always prefer to have ideas-based comparisons for my analytical work. Trying to get a very features-driven comparison only, in my experience, leads to muddled answers. Either you’re trying to force a comparison and identify a technique that’s not really of any use, or you end up trying to say more about it than you actually can.  It’s far, far more effective to have a comparison based on what the writer is trying to do. So when it comes to poetry revision for GCSE and A-Level, isolating some lines and really focusing on the ideas behind them is what we’e …

Winter Swans – an exploration of one of my favourites

I’m teaching the new AQA GCSE anthology at the moment, and it has Winter Swans in, which is one of my favourite poems from Sheers’ collection. So I figured I’d set down some thoughts on it. Winter Swans On initial reading, the poem isn’t overly complex – the story of a couple whose relationship is undergoing some turbulent times but, but the end of the poem, they experience a brief interlude of calm. Sheer’s imagery of the swan has been criticised as being slightly heavy handed in some reviews of the collection – the dialogue in particular, of the lover …