Coleridge Knows


‘In all processes of the understanding the shortest way will be discovered the last and this, perhaps, while it constitutes the great advantage of having a teacher to put us on the shortest road at the first, yet sometimes occasions a difficulty in the comprehension, inasmuch as the longest way is more near to the existing state of the mind, nearer to what if left to myself, on starting the thought, I should have thought next. The shortest way gives me the knowledge best, but the longest makes me more knowing.’

– Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Chapter V, ANIMA POETÆ

Managing the Coleridge Memorial Trust social media platforms and website as well as its memorial statue Crowdfunder campaign [now postponed], I have over at least the last three months been immersed in Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s writing – his poetry of course, but perhaps more so his aphorisms and maxims from ANIMA POETÆ which is a collection of the written intense outcomes of his relentless thinking and contemplation on issues ranging from a comparison of the efficacy of wood vs coal burning to expressions of deep love to philosophical ruminations.

Accepting that we can all sometimes find what we want to find, I have been reading and re-reading the quotation of his that leads this post, never feeling confident that I have pinned down exactly what he means. It is a complex thought and sentence to articulate this. But I do feel I now have its emotive and intellectual gist, and that is about how knowledge acquired over time and experience is more meaningful – and useful/purposeful – to that acquired quickly by instruction, and that [quite obviously] by rote.

That may seem eminently sensible, and I think it is, but Coleridge’s expression is quite convoluted. However, I don’t intend to unravel his expression further through analysis as I am more than happy with his conclusion about knowing over knowledge, or certainly as I see and understand this.

And I have found this certainty because I believe it to be true. I believe it to be true because it underpins my teacher’s objection to the current fashion for a Knowledge Curriculum, that purported by the American educationalist H.D. Hirsch and his UK acolytes Cummings, Gove, Gibb and even lesser less-knowers Young. That this fashionable theory for learning [though I use that term ironically] has informed the current Ofsted Inspection Framework is part of the danger I see in giving primacy to Knowledge over Understanding, the latter which is Coleridge’s knowing.

That’s it.

Creating a Creative Writing Blog ‘Copycatters’

Copycatter logo

For some time I’ve been wanting to set up a blog dedicated to my creative writing ideas/resources to share for free. I was prompted to do so a few days ago because of the instruction that children of key workers at the time of this coronavirus outbreak would continue to attend schools and they would therefore need to be taught/entertained/occupied and so on. I’d like to think creative writing could and would be an ‘entertaining’ way to engage, and the ideas/resources could also be used for parents/carers at home tasked with the same commitment.

I’m not so sure the attendance at schools [I know it is only the first week] has been that significant or steady for teachers to be needing and/or planning for activities? This will, I’m sure, vary from area to area, rural to urban and so on.

So I am seeing my continuance with this blog more as was always the intention: collecting together and sharing creative writing resources already produced over many years both as a teacher and as someone continuing to write for teachers. I will eventually be adding new ideas/resources.

At the moment, the initial ‘thread’ of ideas is presenting work I have produced over many years for the UK’s annual National Poetry Day. I have started with these as they tend to contain ready-made and extensive detail, including teacher/guidance notes, student/writer notes, models and templates and so on. I have amended here and there and added new images/logos to update and make a little more presentable than when some of the early ones first appeared!

The title Copycatter has come quite simply from my own experience of working with students and providing them with creative writing models of/for writing to copy. These are structures/styles,  and List Poems are a touchstone-model for students to ‘copy’ as a process but also platform for generating creative, repeating ideas.

The blog is here: this will take you to Home, and the resources are in the Blog. If you scroll to the bottom of the Home page you can Follow the blog and receive emails whenever there is a new post. Please pass on details to anyone you think may be interested.

Empty Suitcase and an Aeolian Washburn

Unable to travel,
I won’t be making

the annual trip
to that city –

thirty four years
and never missed –

so moving in
a tight space

to put the empty
suitcase away

it’s knocked over to
fall and brush across

the Washburn
on its stand,

open-tuned to E,
and though not

a beginning to a blues
it is the perfect chord

playing how many
good things remain.