Let the poets bash Thatcher

10th March 2006 at 00:00
Peter King's piece in Talkback "No Thatcher-bashing in front of the children, please" (Friday magazine, February 24) raises an interesting issue about poetry and politics.

Admirably, he regularly brings a large group of his GCSE students to one of our Poetry Live! events where six poets from the AQA Anthology read their poems and discuss them.

He picks out Carol Ann Duffy's poem "Education for Leisure" and Simon Armitage's "Hitcher" and objects to an "insidious anti-Thatcher message being sneaked in by the back door into the minds of young people".

It's hardly "back-door": Duffy and Armitage made clear their political views when they wrote the poems (which of course were written in the Thatcher era). Surely poets have the right to be political? Would one try taking out the politics from RS Thomas, Wole Soyinka or Kipling?

Pupils attend these events with teachers as a group (we don't take individual bookings); that shared experience hopefully leads to interesting discussions about poetry (and no doubt politics) in the classroom, as I'm sure it does in Peter King's follow-up lessons. For the record, poets didn't have a say in which of their poems went into the AQA Anthology.

Simon Powell Director, Poetry Live!

PO Box 29, Denbigh North Wales

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