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.

I don’t like Freud.

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I’m an English student who doesn’t like poetry.

That’s slightly blasphemous, wouldn’t you agree?

I hated poems until I did find

The Earl of Rochester. Oh what a mind!

So much scandal and sex and general debasement

I stared at the page with the utmost amazement!

I’d finally found a poet I liked

So I turned to the criticism while I was still psyched!


The criticism was logical, interesting too!

So much useful information, I wasn’t sure what to do!

I wrote and I wrote, absorbing the wisdom

Nothing could stop me, it was really quite awesome.

Then I saw a phrase that brought me to a halt,

A phrase that critics always seem to resort to as default:

‘Freudian analysis’. My most hated theory.

My demeanour at this point was far from cheery.


Just because Freud had a thing for his mum

Doesn’t mean we should adopt his rule of thumb.

Every poem, every novel and every play

Is now dissected in a Freudian way.

Critics always seem to find things to support it

Yet little of their logic seems to actually fit.

Not everything leads back to penis envy

Critics: think of something else and stop making me angry!


I threw the book of criticism down

Stared at it for a minute, face locked in a frown.

Rochester’s writing is crude and full of sex

But it doesn’t mean that his personality reflects

Freudian theories with tenuous links!

Do critics not care what anyone else thinks?

Not every text needs analysis by Freud

Sometimes it is best to just simply avoid.


And yes, it’s ironic that I’ve written in rhyme.

By making my points obvious, I’m emphasising the crime

That most poets commit in hiding what they mean.

See how much easier it is when the point is clearly seen?

How clever is that? I’ve clearly explained TWO things!

How often does that happen in poetic musings?

I’ll admit I’ve never written a poem before

And that explains why this one is so poor.