What I Learnt Today

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Picture the scene…

A 19 year old girl sat at a kitchen table (wearing a thermal t-shirt and two hoodies because it’s a student house and we’re too poor for heating). She’s surrounded by piles of books, bottles of empty energy drinks, and reams of paper filled with tiny, chicken scratch writing, spider diagrams and frustrated scribbles. She hasn’t moved for 6 hours now. Her hair is messy from frustrated head grabbing, her leg is jiggling from frustration (and possibly a caffeine overdose) and her knuckles are white from gripping the pen so hard in her frustration. She’s frustrated.

The reason for this? I’m planning my end of semester assessed essay.

Before I started, I decided that I would rebel against the social constraints and dictations that force us to only use our paper in the portrait format. I took a chance; I got excited and said ‘no! Today, I shall be different! Today, I will not work by the rules forced upon us by the lined paper manufacturers! Today, I shall turn my paper landscape!’ And I did.

6 hours in, I began to regret my libertine decision.

Without those lovely faint, wide ruled lines my writing is nothing. My writing is so tiny, so crammed onto the page and so far from straight that it’s practically illegible. My gems of literary criticism, my epiphanies, my ground-breaking insights, my philosophical theories outrageously applied to Romantic autobiographical texts are all pretty much incomprehensible.


What I learned today: the lines are there for a reason.

An English student’s golden rule.

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Who is to say what these authors meant

When they wrote their novels, their poems and plays?

The English student is never content

Until everything’s decoded, every word, every phrase.

But why do we do this? We can’t know the author’s mind

The authors would be appalled by the meanings we’ve assigned.


It seems we work backwards: we think of points first,

Then we twist words and phrases to mean what we need.

We mould and we bend, we deform and coerce

And words that don’t fit, we dismiss and don’t read.

Look deeply enough and you’ll find some support

For any idea, just remember: distort!