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I wish I’d had a poem like Mango by Ellen van Neerven to write about in my English exam

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Ellen van Neerven’s poem upset some students sitting the NSW Higher School Certificate English exam this week. They were asked “how does the speaker convey delight?” Some were not delighted by the poem, the question or the poet. The ensuing “controversy” may well become a footnote in the history of our Culture Wars.

*** 

Mango by Ellen van Neerven

eight years old

walking under the bridge

scrub, swamp

abandoned machinery

insides of tennis balls

bits of fences

meeting the boys

at the dam

bikes in a pile

skater shoe soles

not cold in

never is

boys talking about mangoes

slapping water

some have never had one

listen to the taste

the squeeze of a cheek

dripping chins

a dog jumps in

they pull on tufts of hair

fill ears with mud

breeze full

clouds break

they remember my birthday

is tomorrow

I wish I’d had a poem like “Mango” by Ellen van Neerven to write about in my matriculation English exam.

Forty years ago, we were given Gertrude Stein’s “Pigeons on the grass” (“Pigeons on the grass alas./ Pigeons on the grass alas. / Short longer grass / short longer longer shorter yellow grass”). I can still remember trying to rhyme “grass” and “alas” in my head, and deciding I’d choose the other (prose) option to analyse. I just wasn’t up to it.

Maybe, given my suburban Adelaide upbringing and lack of mangoes, I’d not have been able to respond to van Neerven’s poem either. I don’t think it would have occurred to me to abuse the writer, even in my head, so there’s something that’s different from then and now.

In the reporting of the nastiness and ensuing debate about what it means to publicly declare a poem is fucked, not many of the online sources actually quote the poem. The abuse is quoted ad nauseam, of course.

“Mango” is very good. No wonder it made some teenagers unhappy and ready to kick out. It evokes a lovely moment, a scene of camaraderie, of sensual pleasure. I wish I could look back on my eight-year-old self and hear, taste and see such joy.

It was a good question, too, to ask about how the writing evokes delight. Again, a teenager not ready to read the precision of poetry, or one for whom sensual delight is out of reach, may react with anger. If we’re testing capacity for joy at the HSC, this poem does it very well.

We’re there, in an instant, with the child under the bridge, in a place that’s never going to make the getaway holiday programs.

This is a poem about sharing and the uncomplicated generosity of friends, and about what’s to be gained from listening.

I love the details of the tennis ball insides, and the pile of bikes. And while this is a short poem, there’s time unfolding, from the arrival, to the leap into the water, to that mango, a thing mused about as summarising what’s these kids feel, about each other and about their being.

Van Neerven’s staccato delivery appears to have upset some of the young readers keen to let her know they don’t approve, but how good is she at varying the pace and rhythm of her 25 lines. The wonder of the boys’ reaction is perfectly captured in the slowed down line, “some have never had one”.

This is a poem about sharing and the uncomplicated generosity of friends, and about what’s to be gained from listening. “Listen to the taste”, van Neerven writes, and I love the way the bodies of these kids and their dogs are as one with the luscious fruit, the “squeeze of a cheek / dripping chins”.

And then, the surprise ending, so simple, so joyous too: “breeze full / clouds break / they remember my birthday /is tomorrow”.

We have looked back with the poet, and we’ve been in the moment with her and the boys and the dogs and the mangoes, and then, with a rising flourish, we feel that excitement of a child’s birthday to look forward to.

I chose not to take on the Stein when I was 16, but it’s haunted me ever since, and just a few weeks back, at an amazing event with John Flaus reading poems selected by John Marsden, I was told I really should have another go at Stein.

As for that exam, Sandra, who was always better at English literature than I was, did choose to analyse the Stein. And she topped our school’s grades.

My point is, some of us are a bit slower than others to find that joy, to learn how to read, to pile our bikes by the swimming hole and listen to the taste of mangoes. Some of us, sadly, never find it, but surely education must give us all the chance.

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[box]Photo of Ellen van Neerven supplied by University of Queensland.[/box]

53 responses to “I wish I’d had a poem like Mango by Ellen van Neerven to write about in my English exam

  1. yeah you say the question was good how it asked about the delight of discovery, but really the poem is about rape. you tell me how u are supposed to answer a question asking the delight of discovery when students are given a poem about rape

    1. Yeah, uh, like, uh, yeah, no .. it isn’t .. about rape, that is.

      There’s nothing like the
      Arrogance of ignorance
      Take my word for this.

      Get someone to explain it to you.

  2. I believe the author said, on a periscope live stream, the poem was about a 8 year old being raped. Take for instance the lines “the squeeze of a cheek,” “dripping chins,” “they pull on tufts of hair,” “fill ears with mud.” Also the HSC question was asking students to identify a delightful discovery.

    1. Hmmm… and by similar comparison, Rossetti’s Goblin Market is almost certainly about attempted rape and Lesbian incest, something apparently quite shocking in an apparently quaint Victorian poet’s poetry. Quite similar metaphors of violence and sensual fruit imagery… it’s actually quite clearer than Mangoes.

  3. While I appreciate Rosemary’s observation about reflection, staccato rhythms, the raw, off the tourist-trail location and Pete’s comment about the disclosure of rape on Periscope, I don’t think this is a good poem. It has all the hallmarks of a writer not being in control of their language and using a grab-bag of images. There’s little to recommend it as fine poetry. Occasionally a poem will be written in one sitting and still retain mystery, arresting imagery, rhythm and images. ‘Mango’ feels rushed and one dimensional. The criticism of the poet is inappropriate and out of line, though. It’s all about the poetry. ‘Listen to the taste’ is worth preserving.

  4. I read no delight in this poem. I know nothing about the author, but it seemed to be about some sort of violence (against the dog, the narrator?)

    We’ve come to the point where anyone can publicly destroy anyone else over anything.

    1. If one sees violence or even rape in this piece it is a comment on the reader not the poem. For me it is full of my childhood. Swimming in the creek with the other local kids, mango juice running down chins (in the days before we learnt to excise the “cheek” ) and feeling warm and included. Very evocative and joyful

  5. Comments re rape are inconsequental as I doubt that any of the HSC students were aware of this possible aspect prior to the exam. The poem is delightful, if not necessarily world-shatteringly brilliant. The proliferation of sensualy evokative images fired at us at the rate of a child’s changing span of interest and the joy of the memory of the birthday all make it what a “poem” is! What must be remembered is that a work of art is not the artist, it is merely a work of art.

    1. not inconsequential if those setting the exam were aware (and if they were not they should have been). The HSC students I have spoken to were perplexed by the appropriateness of the question not the poem itself.

  6. Is Pete correct that the author has said the poem is about rape? It most certainly doesn’t convey that to me. Whilst my childhood wasn’t where mangoes grow it was rural and at times my sister enjoyed mangoes Mum purchased as a treat, she loved sucking on the seed, dripping chin. The poem elicits many memories of delightful times. I fully concur with Rosemary Sorenson and feel for those who don’t have those same childhood memories. The only variations I could add would be insides of golf balls rather than tennis balls and skater shoes weren’t in.
    Thoroughly delightful.

  7. In the 1987 HSC I had a similar experience in 3 unit English with a Denise Levertov poem called “The Train”. My friends and I actually visited a university library and spent a day ransacking its shelves — no luck. Our teacher assured us we probably wouldn’t get anything by Levertov in the exam…

    Just the luck of the draw. I didn’t even consider sending Levertov hate mail!

  8. If the Poem is about rape, I seriously doubt whether the NSW DEC have picked up on this nuance. And it is a nuance only. If you are told the poem is about rape then perhaps this interpretation can be made with foreknowledge. A bit difficult for our Year 12’s. Why ask a response on the “Delight of Discovery” if the poem is about rape? Insensitive at best and slightly sick at worst. This is not the problem of the poet, and the ridiculous attacks from students are more a comment about the over developed sense of entitlement of our current generation of students not the merits of the poem or the poet.

    1. NESA obviously did no research into the meaning of the poem, since the author had no idea that it was going to be featured in the english paper 1 exam. It doesn’t justify how some students have acted but it shouldn’t condemn the entirety of the year 12 across NSW

  9. Nice poem, but if it is supposed to be about rape it is so obscure and conflicted in execution that it’s a fail.

    No need to attack the author though.

  10. Surely the point about this sorry episode is not about the poem itself. It is about the response and what that says about the respondents. As a teacher I am appalled (but not surprised). Social media has positives – but also negatives. Sounding off without thinking is one of the negatives. I have noticed among senior students a “black and white” view of issues – no shades of grey – no understanding of opposing points of view. Very worrying..

  11. “It was a good question, too, to ask about how the writing evokes delight. ” But that isn’t what the question asked, was it? ““how does the speaker convey delight?”

    Convey and evoke are different words, quite different concepts, aren’t they? Evokes assumes that delight was created, which is a highly subjective experience in any case. What if it didn’t evoke any delight?

    “We’re there, in an instant, with the child under the bridge, in a place that’s never going to make the getaway holiday programs.” Is this the ‘smashed avocado eating, spoiled and entitled children’ attack of a reasonable claim that the poem may not actually evoke delight.

    And what of young males, unlikely yet to have evolved emotionally enough to know what ‘delights’ them, or not yet being so world weary that eating a piece of fruit might seem nostalgic and delightful, and in a fearful intermediate zone between childhood and adulthood. I have no idea for young women, not having been one, but the underlying assumption that it does actually evoke delight requires challenge.

    But again, that wasn’t the question. Convey, not evoke, and very different in meaning. What of the person who states that the poem conveyed no delight to them, and then with reasoned argument described why that was the case for them. I wonder how that would have been marked. Again, the underlying thought control inherent in the question is actually a problem.

    In any case, the vast bulk of the students comments was about the arcane question and lack of interest in the poem (an academic described the question as stupid, while defending the poem). It was much later that the commentariat brought in racist undertones (students had no idea that the author was indigenous) and only later did that become a much smaller pile-on to the author, which was regrettable.

    Unfortunately some kids didn’t quite know where to direct their anger. Not just children make that mistake.

    And we haven’t even covered the not obvious sexual undertones of the poem. This HSC question, not the poem, highlights a problem in the current study of HSC english. People argue constantly how learning maths was never used outside of school, not understanding how they are surrounded by it in every transaction, and yet these studies of poetry and conveying of feelings is the one thing you will never be required to do in life after school.

    And they at least have that to look forward to.

  12. Not knowing the sub-text of the mango image I read the poem as a delightful / innocent day out when I first saw it and wondered how people couldn’t get a short essay out on the author’s skills.

    Now the intent of the poem is, apparently, to communicate the sexual abuse of a young girl – I haven’t found any “facts” that prove this, but there seems to be a consensus that this is the poem’s thesis. As such I think the poem fails.

    So our media story is either a narrative of “Australia is a racist country, look at HSC kids attack an aboriginal author” or “look at our corrupt media elite and how they insinuate sex into everything and at the same time are ignorant about what the poem is really about, the idiots.”

    In the culture wars I’m a guerrilla.

  13. I remember when my daughter who is doing the IB came back and said “The HSC English exam was today, apparently it was a horror, and lots of people are angry about it”, I asked why and she said something along the lines of “in the visual (creative?) writing piece they were asked to do something about discovery and were then given a piece about mangos that looks like it was written by a child, what the heck does discovery and mangos have to do with each other ?”.

    It’s noteworthy to me that the main aspect that I heard they were told to write about was discovery, not delight .. if it had been put to me that it was about delight then being a lover of mangoes I would have understood why a poem about mangos would have been included. Without a copy of the exam question I can’t say whether the emphasis on discovery rather than delight was a mistake of the students under pressure, or poor wording in the question. Regardless I took this as the usual teenage HSC exam venting, clearly they’d been given something out of left field that they hadn’t been prepared for and they were upset about it.

    I remember something similar happening to me thirty odd years ago, and like them I vented to my friends, and given the opportunity to speak to the people who’d set the examination paper, I’d probably have had a few disparaging remarks to say to them about their choices too.

    Today when kids want to vent, they get online and say dumb stuff on twitter and post memes, the vast majority of that is for an audience made up of their own peer groups, however they did that in social media, a pubic space which is closely scrutinised because of political manipulation in the US by a media looking to find yet another angle on “why social media is evil and full of ignorant trolls hell bent on destroying our culture”. From what I understand one of the memes to which some took great offence included a picture of a monkey at a typewriter, which to me evokes the infinite number of monkeys idea, not that of privileged white racism. Nonetheless 0nline media is easily taken out of context, or recontextualised in almost any way the viewer sees fit, especially if it fits their current agenda.

    In return, the amount of vitriol (including death threats and phone calls) and paternalistic derogation which have been directed back towards a what should be recognised as low power group of people, (many of whom are still legally children) by people who appear to have much greater power and privilege, not to mention a well practiced authoritative voice and a platform from which to project it, seems unjust. I’ve not seen, or heard of a single interview with any of the nefarious kids who went “too far”, giving them anything resembling a fair reply. Indeed, like most group oppression, the faults of the group are attributed to every member of the group and the positive achievements are reserved for the individuals.

    Personally I like the poem, and I think she probably deserves an apology from those who offended her, however I would remind everyone, that they did dumb stuff when they were teenagers too, but they weren’t subject to same the kind of public scrutiny of the dumb stuff they did, and that the music isn’t getting any louder, we’re just all getting a little older each day.

    1. The students were perfectly entitled not to find joy in it. To abuse, attack and vilify the poet is another thing entirely

  14. The decision to put that poem with that question highlights why English should not be a compulsory subject. Even the people in charge don’t know whats going on.

  15. Where do you find the attacking comments? So far we have just been told that students attacked the poet and the poem. But I’d like to see the attacks to work out what the real issues are.

  16. I think this is a very interesting and challenging poem. If you can engender understanding of, as well empathy love or even a sense of disappointment with a particular text, they should be able to engage with the text on more than just a ‘Don’t like it , it sucks ‘ response. Life throws up many situations and experiences and having the necessary skills and emotions to deal with those situations enables your to function more fully in life. There is a great sense of laziness and disrespect in the students comments..

  17. A poem I like and would like to read more of her as will others who now know of her existence even Anthony Lawrence who overanalyses would admit it good to get such exposure as a poet. A+ Rosemary.

  18. The poet is dead. It is fallacious to consider the author’s intention when evaluating a work of literature. I thought we sorted that out years ago!

  19. Read into it what you will, the truth is that there is no escape from the conclusion that we, collectively, have bred a monstrous generation.
    Conceited, entitled, violent and insensitive clods who, when asked to analyse a poem they don’t understand, react by attacking the creator of the poem.
    Why did we, collectively, do this?

    1. Rediculous … I’ve been hearing “the kids of today are” for over thirty years. Those comments were applied to me when I was a teenager, and I remember my mother saying the same thing was said of her generation in the post war years, particularly focussed on the loose moral behaviour of young women.

      I host this generation every day and they seem very much like the teenagers I’ve always known, passionate, impulsive, contradictory, beautiful, flawed, and full of possibility and love.

      The most “entitled, violent and conceited clods” I’ve met are generally those that were born in the middle part of the 20th century and benefitted from free university education, plentiful jobs when they left school, years of capital gains tax free investment, and a housing market that wasn’t inflated by massive foreign investment and speculative investment from their grandparents self managed superannuation funds.

      People try to put us down …(The who 1965). … and these children that you spit on as you try to change their ways, are immune to your consultations, they’re quite aware what they’re going through …(Bowie 1971) .. kids have been complaining about this kind of treatment from bitter authority ever since I can remember

      Also .. exactly how many kids criticised the author ? . Ten .. twenty, lets say it was a hundred of them, has anybody actually looked at how this has been blown out of proportion, any way you look at it, the _kids_ who vented are a tiny minority out of tens of thousands of people, so you then turn them all into the “monstrous generation”.

      This blaming the group for the actions of a few could also be described as the act of a violent and insensitive clod, if you were to say this kind of thing about a religious or ethnic minority, you would be rightly accused of ugly bigotry.

      Maybe the people who are making these kinds of disparaging pronouncements are talking about their own kids and their peers, if so if so then I would suggest they only have themselves to blame, because with every finger pointed in blame, there are three more curled back to point back at the accuser.

    2. I have a problem with taking the views of an anonymous minority on social media and concluidng that their point of view is that of an entire “generation”. Drawing a long bow there.

  20. Yes. Thanks for actually showing us the poem. I love it and what you have to say about it. Presumably some “hated” it because it wasn’t ‘complex’ enough to have much to say. Hopefully adulthood will help them too.

  21. The students are not to be blamed at all, as they did not have any reference to the context of the poem. The author is also not to be blamed as the poem is a piece of art. The persons choosing such a poem and putting it to the students are at fault. Is it an appropriate poem to discuss with 15,16 & 17 year olds? The poem itself is very confusing when you do not know the true story behind the poem.

  22. The racist responses from the students are a sad commentary on the society which raised them. In my opinion, the exam board is also to blame, and the students’ ire has been misdirected at the poet when it should have been aimed at the examination officials who wrote the question. I cannot agree that it is a good question. It asked students to “explain how the poet conveys the delight of discovery”. Only six of the twenty-five lines of the poem describe boys at the waterside tasting mangoes (we are told that “some have never had one”) as the poem’s speaker watches. In fact, they may just be talking about tasting mangoes. They slap the water, and juice runs down their chins (either in reality or in their imaginations), and that’s it. The rest of the poem describes a scrubby, swampy setting littered with garbage, under a bridge and beside a dam, and a dog jumping into the water as the boys remember it is the protagonist’s birthday. There is no suggestion that this setting is new to any of the people described in the poem; in fact, we are told that it “never is” cold in the water. It is a good poem, but only six lines of it are relevant to the question, which is not just about “delight”, but “the delight of discovery”.

    Why do exam boards (the world over, it seems), insist on asking questions which are deliberately designed to trip and confuse students? What would have been wrong with “Explore the poet’s use of description”? What gives examiners the right to play roulette with young people’s futures, and with authors’ reputations, in this way?

  23. I recalled happy times on the banks and in the stream of Goonoo Goonoo Creek – just now – reading the poem. Beautifully evocative piece of writing by Ellen Van Neerven! I can’t stand the sneering though of some of those responding to this HSC nonsense!

  24. I thought the poem was truly lovely & it’s the first time I’ve read it . It’s rhythm reminded me of a haiku albeit an extended one .
    I didn’t pick up on any rape theme ?
    WTF ! what’s all the bloody fuss about …it’s a poem , it’s beautiful; I thank the poet for it .
    Some brats struggled because they didn’t expect it in their HSC? & then they think they can troll online and act like the little self entitled shits that they are !?
    Hey hallo your just one year of Hscer’s in many ..you ain’t special.
    How dare you insult an artist that puts their work out into the world and accidently interferes in your empty quest to do a business/law degree you soulless twits!

    Thanks to the backhanded fuss that has enlightened me to this poet I ‘ll be buying her book(s).

  25. I don’t see anything about rape. I too come from mango country, and dripping chins and squeezing cheeks, before I even knew the word ‘cheek’ in that context … or tried the technique of extracting the flesh. I must admit if I had the question about the ‘delight of ‘discovery” I would be flummoxed., but then the HSC , or Senior, the Queensland equivalent, was a long time ago for me. My challenge was to interpret Kafka and Voltaire as a 17 year old. No wonder I cracked up. Maybe better to explode than implode.
    Thankyou for giving us the poem Rosemary, which I had been looking for and is how I landed here. I hope that Ellen van Neerven has not been hurt by the vitriol, and delights in being discovered by numerous people (me included) who otherwise would not have known her work.

    1. Back in my country (India) we as kids would eat mangoes when they were still green. The sour taste along with a tiny bit of salt and chilly powder is amazing and just remembering it makes my mouth water.

  26. I’d say the response is more about teenagers who’ve never had any adventures or joys outside of shopping malls. I thought it was wonderful.

    1. Well as a 25 year old who grew up in Kerala India, where we literally had 3 mango trees in the backyard , and I spend the majority of my childhood surrounded by trees on every side and playing cricket in rice fields during the summer and climbing mango trees or throwing rocks to score some good mangoes. I would say that you are spouting utter sh*t The poem has minimum 2 ways of interpreting it and as several people already mentioned their was an undertone of some sort of “abuse”, that you(a person) could reasonably understand due to the use of good imagery. And mind you I’m not defending the current HSC students but for you to blame it on “never had any adventures or joys outside of shopping malls” is both pathetic and makes you sound like an idiot.

  27. As an HSC student, I think that this poem is stunning! For somehow what, I loved it! It’s fantastic – abstract, colourful and expressive. I think the point is to confuse people, and that’s okay – life is like that – challenging along the way. I think that people need to think outside the box here – it’s not just about discovery – but many things to be interpreted as. It’s like art – you look at the painting, you may be confused or be pleasant about it, and it takes a while to get [small/many] answers. This is like that! Us as a human being express ourselves in different ways and each expression is unique – e.g. you can take it into speeches, actions, songs, paintings, movies, books, poetry and etc.
    It makes you wonder, contemplate, confused and to think outside the box!!! The images and colour are turned into words…
    (For my translation, I read it as a woman that is meeting up with her childhood friends – the boys. And the dam is where they used to meet. She then remembers about the mangoes – how the boys have wanted to eat them and they may have talk about it in the past as a wishlist to achieve, they see it as a “comfort food”. But when they eat the mango for the first time, their expressions are so happy! Just like how the boys are meeting her for the first time after such long years. And when she visits them they remember who she is. I think that they haven’t met in a while and that the discovery here is something that has been lost, forgotten or concealed and that she just unveiled it.)
    I also think that the author used a very clever descriptive language/imaging technique here – close up of such many items which brings her lots of memories (e.g.
    The mango colour is yellow, representing a vibrant feeling and the yellow colour symbolism shows joy. Another one is – Insides of tennis balls, representing that they used to play tennis together as a child and it’s meaning a lot to her – like the inside of her heart). She puts many close ups of the item/s to put out, either as a motif of memory, symbolism and a place to also create the atmosphere/setting. It’s like, the author really wants the reader to empathise how the character feels and to also welcome the re-discovery.
    The point is to invite the reader towards her perspective.
    So you go Ellen Van Neerven! Keep writing poems! I encourage you and don’t listen to the haters! Express yourself!
    To other poets, authors, and to anyone else, be yourself! Do not worry about such negativity because this your own work! Your own expression taken into creativity!!!

      1. Well, as I said from earlier, people can interpret it in many and different ways! Even if the author confirmed that it was about a sexual assault, well I did not see it that way. And for you you may have interpreted as that, but I do not know the author that well so I took it in my own translation. Abstract poetry/art can be interpreted in many ways – as I said it can either be anything – from rape to food.

  28. Teenagers are idiots. That’s all there is to it. I know this because I was one once.

    The problem is that in this event, like in so many other twitstorms, the media gave it coverage that it did not deserve.

  29. As a student in my late 30s, I’ve definitely noticed a distinct shift in education and student conduct.

    Yes, I’m doing a Masters and paying a lot for it, and yes, exams are tough – but they’re supposed to be. I notice a lot of my fellow students complaining about the topics, the *content*, the methods of assessment – as if they already know the subject and are qualified to dictate what is and isn’t appropriate assessment. Most of these are in their early twenties and fresh off their undergrad degree. They bully and the vilify lecturers they don’t like. It incredibly disrespectful but its something I’ve noticed more and more.

    Yes my HSC equivalent had some awful and tricky stuff in it. But thats where you sort the wheat from the chaff. And it sounds like the chaff these days have access to online forums instead of just heading home and whining and getting on with life. Can’t wait for these guys and girls to hit the workforce.

  30. As a long time teacher of the VCE in Victoria I think it presumptuous of those setting the question to determine a reading, student responses would have been more insightful had they been asked to create and defend their own.

    When thinking about young people it can be helpful to imagine them as individuals in a very big bell curve, for that is the purpose of assessment. Some will embrace the experience and shine, a larger number will see it for what it is and play the game, most will comply to the best of their ability, some will be angry that they are ill prepared or not up to the task and for a few, the senior year is a cruel and unusual experience in which they must unsuccessfully participate because economic and political circumstances have ripped the jobs and apprenticeships they once would have taken from them and deemed that the HSC/VCE is this century’s right of passage to adulthood. In such a cohort there will always be those who suspect that they are being ripped off and will strike out. I do not support them but do understand.

    On another note, I am wondering why the HSC Board does not comply with the laws related to the reproduction of intellectual property. Surely the writer should be asked whether the poem can be reproduced in the exam. In my subject all exam material is subject to copyright clearance. It is the law, a courtesy and her right.

  31. the poem is literally about the sexual assault of an 8 year old – the author herself confirms this. i don’t see how anyone could possibly defend NESA’s phrasing of their question “a delightful discovery” in regards to this.

  32. An individual comes across a group of people, gathered in a location that is away from the main run, and talk turns to who has had a certain experience and who hasn’t…

    It could so easily go either way, and there are enough double meanings in the poem for it to read either way.

    Although many students may not have fully comprehended the second possibility at the time, it seems many sensed there was something amiss and baulked at being forced to swallow the line that there was “delight of discovery” in this scenario. Well, all those PDHPE lessons watching and discussing Mean Girls etc. were implemented (ironically, by NESA themselves) precisely to raise awareness about these types of issue, so we should feel encouraged that they paid off, for some at least.

    We know from the Royal Commission Report released on 18 October (Case Study 45), that there are children who have unfortunately had the wrong end of just such a scenario within the system, and there may well have been a few among this year’s Year 12 cohort. I feel for them.

    NESA really should have seen this one. So much for student welfare! Mainstream media seem to be burying this side of the story, but NESA needs to own this.

  33. Neither of the poems mentioned is good, or even a poem. How did the nation that produced Adam Lindsay Gordon, Henry Kendall, and “Banjo” Paterson ever come to this? Even Marcus Clarke’s prose is far better poetry.

    However, “grass” and “alas” do rhyme – in American English, at least.

    1. Alan, please do stop confusing your opinion for fact. If you are confident enough to state that Mango is a bad poem, at least to differentiate between the two.

      In my opinion, Mango is a wonderful poem; vivid and disquieting, and the lack of rhyming only adds to its power.

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