Fair is howl and howl is fair

August 25, 2011

In response to Katie Alcock's and Alice Bell's wide-ranging discussion of "exam howlers" (Opinion, 11 August), here is a sonnet on the subject (warning: the following poem contains real howlers):

I now know Seamus Heaney dug with his gun

and Sylvia Plath died before she came,

how with atom bombs the '68 war was won,

peasants never suffered on Russian plains,

DRACULA hores bore a bogey story,

Ordondo waxed that pottery is lyrical,

Mr Hyde knit closer than a wifey

and Larkin threw toast at his children.

Whereas I, Dr Quillet, justify: "You only write poems when you've not been told."

At 12 I read to the class, terrified,

agog as a lamped Settle hare,

the bitty drivel of a Latin-challenged child:

his tears of shame still shame me.

Antony Rowland, School of English, Sociology, Politics and Contemporary History, University of Salford

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