Today I am going to kill something. Anything.
I have had enough of being ignored and today
I am going to play God. It is an ordinary day,
a sort of grey with boredom stirring in the streets
I squash a fly against the window with my thumb.
We did that at school. Shakespeare. It was in
another language and now the fly is in another language.
I breathe out talent on the glass to write my name.
I am a genius. I could be anything at all, with half
the chance. But today I am going to change the world.
Something’s world. The cat avoids me. The cat
knows I am a genius, and has hidden itself.
I pour the goldfish down the bog. I pull the chain.
I see that it is good. The budgie is panicking.
Once a fortnight, I walk the two miles into town
For signing on. They don’t appreciate my autograph.
There is nothing left to kill. I dial the radio
and tell the man he’s talking to a superstar.
He cuts me off. I get our bread-knife and go out.
The pavements glitter suddenly. I touch your arm.
Carol Ann Duffy
This poem was banned by an examination board in England, after three complaints.
"A spokeswoman for AQA confirmed there had been three complaints, two referring to knife crime and a third about the description of a goldfish being flushed down the toilet. The first complaint about knives was made in 2004. The second, made in the summer by an exams officer, was then taken up by an MP.
The most recent complaint was made by Lutterworth grammar school’s exams invigilator, Pat Schofield, who welcomed the board’s decision and said: “I think it is absolutely horrendous - what sort of message is that to give to kids who are reading it as part of their GCSE syllabus?”
The AQA spokeswoman said: “The decision to withdraw the poem was not taken lightly and only after due consideration of the issues involved. We believe the decision underlines the often difficult balance that exists between encouraging and facilitating young people to think critically about difficult but important topics and the need to do this in a way which is sensitive to social issues and public concern.”
*(GCSE, "general certificate of secondary education, exams taken by 16 yr olds)
This sparked a fierce debate.... Okay, not much of a debate at all really. In Britain our kids are not very likely to decide to take a gun into school, although... in some inner city areas.. but, knives. Knives are in our minds following several fatal stabbings amongst school-age children-and not just the boys. So the subject is indeed delicate. I can, to some extent see the aforementioned Ms Schofield's point of view.
Should poems and other literature taught in school be devoid of violence for fear that pupils will copy?
The poet herself provides a balancing riposte.
Mrs Schofield's GCSE -by Carol Anne Duffy
You must prepare your bosom for his knife,
said Portia to Antonio in which
of Shakespeare's Comedies? Who killed his wife,
insane with jealousy? And which Scots witch
knew Something wicked this way comes? Who said
Is this a dagger which I see? Which Tragedy?
Whose blade was drawn which led to Tybalt's death?
To whom did dying Caesar say Et tu? And why?
Something is rotten in the state of Denmark - do you
know what this means? Explain how poetry
pursues the human like the smitten moon
above the weeping, laughing earth; how we
make prayers of it. Nothing will come of nothing:
speak again. Said by which King? You may begin.