John Cooper Clarke: Michael Gove is ‘right’ on poetry

The BBC is reporting that punk poet John Cooper Clarke says former Education Secretary Michael Gove was “right” to support the learning of poetry by rote…

Gove has previously said learning a poem by heart is to “own a great work of art forever”.

Cooper Clarke said too much emphasis was now put on meaning behind verse, rather than the sound of language.

He told Radio 5 live’s Afternoon Edition the poems had “complex emotional issues” that children would not appreciate.

“Nobody’s wrong about everything… and I think on that one he’s right – learn it off by heart,” he said. “It’s a phonetic art form”…

More (including audio of the intereview) at: John Cooper Clarke: Michael Gove is ‘right’ on poetry


Fair comment from John Cooper Clarke? In the interview he describes poetry as ‘music made out of language’. Please tell us how you see it in the comments or via Twitter…


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  1. Janet2

    Memorizing poems doesn’t have to be done by rote.  Ted Hughes, in the introduction of ‘By Heart: 101 Poems to Remember’ describes a way of memorizing poems by using a visual technique.  This was especially useful when few people could read.

    Appreciating poetry is complex.  Poetry is a combination of sound, rhythm and rhyme used in such a way as to communicate feeling and meaning.  This is something children can be encouraged to do for themselves: express something complex in a few meaningful sentences.  

    But forcing children to memorize poetry could be counter-productive.  Memorizing often follows from repetition – hearing something which the child loves again and again.  Then it’s truly learnt by heart.

  2. neilayates

    SchoolsImprove The inspirational teacher is the one who makes you want to do your home learning on Friday evening rather than Sunday night

  3. kitandrew1

    SchoolsImprove in other words a poet is saying poetry is valuable & important…like a musician saying music is great…

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