Ironically, despite its structure, "How Shall We Defeat The Enemy?" raises more questions than it answers. The poem refers to contemporary world events in a way that suggests how close we are to Orwell's predictions in 1984, where language is manipulated for political ends, the identity of the enemy shifts according to the political decisions of those in power, and financial considerations (the sale of armaments) play no small part in the process.
We can use the structure of this poem to help pupils think through controversial issues, not only in English, but across the curriculum. For example, in considering the widespread use of closed-circuit television and its implications for individual freedom, give pupils the question: "How shall we protect our cities?" as an opening line, and encourage them to follow every answer with a further question.
Cliff Yates is deputy head of Maharishi School, Lancashire, and author of Jumpstart Poetry in the Secondary School (Poetry Society).
How Shall We Defeat The Enemy?
How shall we defeat The Enemy?
We shall defeat The Enemy by making alliances.
Who shall we make alliances with?
With people in whose interests it is, to be enemies with The Enemy.
How shall we win an alliance with these people?
We shall win an alliance with these people by giving them money and arms.
And after that?
They will help us defeat The Enemy.
Has The Enemy got money and arms?
How did The Enemy get money and arms?
He was once someone in whose interests it was, to be enemies with our enemy.
Which enemy was this?
Someone in whose interest it had once been, to be enemies with an enemy.
Michael Rosen, 2001