Teaching poetry

Teaching poetry

The low-key furore in recent days over what it costs to sustain the Garda Band — €1.73m last year — was a continuation of the debate around the costs borne by RTÉ so we might enjoy a concert orchestra and a symphony orchestra.

There was some huffing and puffing, some low-grade philistinism, but, thankfully, reform rather than radical restructuring was proposed.

This did no more than recognise that the arts, in their many-coloured coats, are an essential pulse in the fabric of civilised national life.

That process, that celebration of the sometimes peripheral but always central, continued yesterday when Frank Ormsby was named the incoming Ireland Professor of Poetry.

He succeeds Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin.

Though the award was established in 1998 to mark the contribution of Irish poets to the world of literature it is too easy to argue that the teaching of poetry, like the teaching of Irish, is not as successful, as evangelising over a lifetime as it might be.

How many school leavers can offer even three verses of a poem? Mr Ormsby, a retired teacher, may have some suggestions.

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