callmemadam (callmemadam) wrote,

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Kumquats and educashun

The whole of Radio 4's Front Row programme this evening was devoted to the poet Tony Harrison, who is coming up for seventy and ought to be Poet Laureate. The son of a baker, from a home without books and with parents who were 'inarticulate', he went on to study classics, translate Greek drama for the National Theatre and become a major poet. At his grammar school he was banned from reading Keats aloud in class because of his strong Yorkshire accent. Ironic, considering that Keats was snobbishly looked down on in his own lifetime because he spoke like a Cockney. Harrison has kept his accent and his fondness for his roots; this irritates some people, who think he should have 'got over it' and ceased to be chippy. I've admired his poetry for years and this is a favourite:

In the interview Harrison said that his academic success was due to the 1944 Education Act and six scholarships. How many children today, coming from working class backgrounds, have the opportunity of learning Latin & Greek? The study of classics will soon be as exclusive a privilege as it was before universal education. Where are the Tony Harrisons of the future?
Tags: classics., education, poetry, radio4, tony harrison
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