Sunday, 11 October 2015

Homework OR A Growing Sense of Being on the Wrong Learning Curve

A slightly different version of today’s poem first appeared in an anthology, The Scene is Set, Poetry Now (Forward Press) 2002 and CC&D (Scars Publications, U.S.) the same year, and subsequently in my collection; it also appeared in Ygdrasil, A Journal of the Poetic Arts (an on-line monthly webzine) in 2005.

I spent many years working as a librarian in public libraries. Young people would come in to do their homework and I would ask them how they were getting on at school. Their responses would vary from politely indifferent to openly hostile towards the school environment as they saw it. I would nod, smile, and try to sound encouraging. It was hostility, though, that would invariably trigger memories of my own schooldays when homework would inevitably get me thinking about matters other than what I needed to be getting on with for school the next day.

Homework taxes the brain and sends all kinds of messages into the mind, not all of which are directly relevant to the matter in hand; a stressful process, yet curiously liberating. It isn’t healthy to close our minds to what is going on (at any age) either in the world at large or, more importantly, within ourselves.

I used to wonder sometimes if teachers and parents understand how scary homework sessions can be. It would strike me that few do or they would be helping us answer more questions about life and human nature than any regular hypothesis considered suitable \(by whom, I used to ask myself?) for homework.

Among my teachers at junior and secondary schools, there were a few who taught me more than a relatively narrow curriculum allowed. I may not have been able to articulate on this particular learning process for years, but especially as a teenager - it sowed seeds of thought embracing mind, body and spirit that I sensed required nurture. By way of their many throw-away comments and occasional voiced opinions about all sorts, I accessed aspects of philosophy of which I would otherwise have been left ignorant, helping me to develop an affinity with various life forces providing lasting food for thought that has influenced, guided, helped and supported me all my life.

While all the rest made me feel much like a caged bird anxious to be free, this was a real learning curve, one which university would expand upon and help clarify way beyond the relatively limited scope of academia, truly an education for life…one which, of course, never ends.


Photos by the bed,
posters on the wall, press cuttings
on a chair
likely to hit the floor if someone
opens the door
so the door stays shut,
keeping strangers out
while anxious faces debate
human rights, pollution,
nature conservation, salvation,
education, discrimination,
traffic congestion, political correctness
(on the face of it),
safer sex, drugs, always having
to be alert;
a clamour of everyday voices kicking
what passes for the soul
like a football across the room;
conscience, scoring an own goal every
now and then

So many questions, few answers, lies,
half lies, part truths,
and home truths like moths flummoxed
by a light bulb

Please, someone, open the damn door
(not meant to stay shut) and let us out

Copyright R. N. Taber 2002; 2011

[Note: An earlier version of this poem appears in first editions of A Feeling for the Quickness of Time by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2002; revised ed. in e-format in preparation.]

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