A Poem for National Poetry Day, October 8th 1998. 

Poets in Residence


 The Head was ambitious and nobody’s fool,
A big man, efficient, and proud of his school.

At the start of the term, as he sorted his post,
The item of mail that intrigued him the most

Was a piece puffing National Poetry Day,
Including a list of the poets who'd stay


And workshop and somehow persuade the whole school

That poets were groovy and poems were cool.


"Here's status," the Head thought. "It's not to be missed."

The one problem, though, was the names on the list,


Though doubtless they wrote quite respectable stuff

Not one of them, frankly, was famous enough.


His school deserved more; his ambition took wing,

And so he decided to do his own thing.


With his usual flair, and with chutzpah exquisite,

He invited the whole English canon to visit.




Geoffrey Chaucer came first, on an equable horse,

And Spenser, and Marlowe, and Shakespeare, of course


(Who was grabbed by the teachers of English, imploring

"Do come and persuade the Year Nines you're not boring.")


Keats arrived coughing, Kipling marched vigorously;

Matthew Arnold began to inspect the school rigorously,


Which delighted the Head, who with pride and elation
Showed the bards of the ages today's education.

Vaughan was ecstatic, but Clough was more sceptical.
Dowson puked up in a litter receptacle.

Coleridge sneaked off to discover the rates
Of an unshaven person outside the school gates;

Soon he'd sunk in a private and picturesque dream.

Auden was ogling the basketball team.

Plath lectured the girls: "Get ahead! Go insane!"

Algernon Swinburne cried: "Bring back the cane!"

Dylan Thomas soon found the head’s cupboard of booze,

And Swift was disdainfully sniffing the loos.

And then the Head twigged, with a horrified jolt,
That something had sparked a Romantic revolt.

Shelley'd gathered the students out in the main quad,

And roused them to rise against school, Head, and God.

Byron soon joined him, and started to speak.
He showed his best profile, and quoted from Greek.


The bards of the thirties were equally Red,

And Milton explained how to chop off a head.


Decadents undermined all the foundations.

Surrealists threw lobsters and rancid carnations.


Pre-Raphaelites attacked the technology rooms,

And the First World War poets trudged off to their dooms,

Rupert Brooke at their head quite amazingly pretty;
Owen decrying the pain and the pity.


Sidney with gallantry led a great charge in

(Tennyson cheering them on from the margin)


The Deputy Head, who was rather a dope,

Got precisely impaled on a couplet by Pope


(Who, while far from Romantic, was never the chap

To run from a fight or keep out of a scrap).


Then the whole solid edifice started to shake

At the sound of prophetical blastings from Blake.


Soon the School was destroyed. Eliot paced through the waste,

And reflected with sorrow and learning and taste,


Which he fused in a poem, an excellent thing,

Though rather obscure and extremely right-wing.


He gave this to the Head, who just threw it aside

As he knelt by the wreck of his school, and he cried


Salty tears that went fizz as they hit the school's ashes.

He said words that I'd better imply by mere dashes:


"-------- Poets! -------- Poetry - rhyme and free verse!

Let them wilt in the face of a Headmaster's curse!


"Let poetry wither! How sweet it would be
If all of the world were as normal as me!"


George Simmers

If you've any comments on his poem, George Simmers would be pleased to hear from you.