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Poems of the Decade (Edexcel)

1. Patience Agbabi – Eat Me

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About this Lecture

Lecture

In this module, we provide an introduction to the ‘Poems of the Decade’ collection as a whole, before looking in more detail as Patience Agbabi’s ‘Eat Me’. In particular, we focus on: (i) the key context of the decade in which these poems were written (2001-10) and the extent to which the poetry reflects on this context; (ii) the extent to which there is a ‘proper’ subject or language for poetry, cf. Matthew Caley’s ‘Lines Written Upon a Prophylactic Found in a Brixton Gutter’; (iii) the extent to which we can identify the speaker in the poem with the poet herself; (iv) the balance between desire and satisfied desire, and the extent to which the desires of the two figures in the poem can be said to coincide; (v) the question of whether the couple in the poem can be described as happy, or the relationship a healthy one; (vi) the influence of Robert Browning’s ‘Porphyria’s Lover’ (1836); (vii) the intersection of sex, gender and race in this poem and in other contemporary poets and poems, e.g. Grace Nichols’ The Fat Black Woman Poems (1984); and (viii) the echo of Lewis Carroll’s ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ (1865) in the title of the poem.

Course

In this course, John McRae (University of Nottingham) explores the twenty poems that make up the ‘Poems of the Decade’ cluster for A Level English Literature (Edexcel). Each poem is read in detail, with a short commentary highlighting aspects of language, style, themes, motifs, and so on. In the case of Patience Agbabi’s ‘Eat Me’, for example, we think about the extent to which we can identify the speaker of the poem with the author herself, the question of whether the couple of the poem can be decribed as happy, and the influence of Robert Browning’s ‘Porphyria’s Lover’ (1836) and Lewis Carroll’s ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ (1865). When we come to Simon Armitage’s ‘Chainsaw Versus the Pampas Grass’, we think about the theme of man versus nature, the concept of ‘anthropomorphisation’, and the final lines of the poem in which it has become clear that the pampas grass has beaten the chainsaw. And so on for the whole selection.

The poems discussed in this course are:
1. Patience Agbabi – Eat Me
2. Simon Armitage – Chainsaw Versus the Pampas Grass
3. Ros Barber – Material
4. John Burnside – History
5. Julia Copus – An Easy Passage
6. Tishani Doshi – The Deliverer
7. Ian Duhig – The Lammas Hireling
8. Helen Dunmore – To My Nine-Year-Old Self
9. UA Fanthorpe – A Minor Role
10. Vicki Feaver – The Gun
11. Leontia Flynn – The Furthest Distances I’ve Travelled
12. Roderick Ford – Giuseppe
13. Seamus Heaney – Out of the Bag
14. Alan Jenkins – Effects
15. Sinéad Morrissey – Genetics
16. Andrew Motion – From the Journal of a Disappointed Man
17. Daljit Nagra – Look We Have Coming to Dover!
18. Ciaran O’Driscoll – Please Hold
19. Adam Thorpe – On Her Blindness
20. Tim Turnbull – Ode on a Grayson Perry Urn

Lecturer

John McRae is Special Professor of Language in Literature Studies and Teaching Associate in the School of English at Nottingham University, and holds Visiting Professorships in China, Malaysia, Spain and the USA. He is co-author of The Routledge History of Literature in English with Ron Carter, and also wrote The Language of Poetry, Literature with a Small 'l' and the first critical edition of Teleny by Oscar Wilde and others.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

McRae, J. (2021, January 09). Poems of the Decade (Edexcel) - Patience Agbabi – Eat Me [Video]. MASSOLIT. https://www.massolit.io/courses/poems-of-the-decade-edexcel/patience-agbabi-eat-me

MLA style

McRae, John. "Poems of the Decade (Edexcel) – Patience Agbabi – Eat Me." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 09 Jan 2021, https://www.massolit.io/courses/poems-of-the-decade-edexcel/patience-agbabi-eat-me