Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The Submarine, summer 2018

The pupil magazine The Submarine has just released its end-of-year summer edition, and it can be read above (click on the arrows to navigate and zoom in). Its focus starts with the recent Eighth Amendment vote, and also in it are a poem by Iona Chavasse, illustrations by Flora Macrae and Tania Stokes and a Lord of the Flies wordsearch.

Thursday, June 07, 2018

Leaving Certificate Paper 2

This year the SEC have started putting online papers as they are being taken, so with an hour or so left still we can have a look at the literature papers being sat in halls all over the country on this sunny Thursday afternoon.

The Higher Level paper 2 (click here to see it) first: we have studied King Lear as our single text, and questions there are a) on 'moments of riveting drama that offer thought-provoking insights into the human condition', which should be straightforward (Gloucester's blinding, Lear and others on the heath, Cordelia's death) and b) a character question on Cordelia having a more significant role than her sisters (despite her mere 100 lines or so in the text). These are both fair questions which allow an able candidate to show his/her abilities.

In the Comparative section, Cultural Context and Literary Genre are the modes, and questions there include ones on 'unacceptable behaviour' (possibly tricky depending on the texts you have studied), and cultural norms affecting the happiness and successful of individuals (this would test most candidates). The Literary Genre options are very straightforward (a woolly question on techniques affecting our response to characters, and the techniques used at the start of texts).

The Unseen Poem is well-chosen: Moya Cannon's 'Two Ivory Swans'- she can be seen and heard reading it at the top of this post.

The annual Poetry Derby sees four coming past the post: Robert Frost, Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, John Montague and Philip Larkin. As has been the case in recent years, these tend to wordiness, and have plenty of potential tripping points, such as the question on Montague, on his 'effective use of place, both literal and metaphorical, to explore elements of his personal and cultural identity': there's a lot there to get your head around.

The Ordinary Level paper, which a small number of our candidates take, is very straightforward: the Lear questions will frighten no-one, and nor will Comparative questions on Hero, Heroine, Villain and Social Setting. Richard Peabody's 'Walking to Dublin' is the Unseen Poem, and Prescribed Poems are Larkin's great poem 'The Explosion', Ted Hughes's 'Hawk Roosting', Eavan Boland's 'Child of our Time' and Michael Coady's 'New World'.

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Leaving Certificate Paper 1

The annual national stress-fest that is the Leaving Certificate exam season is on us, accompanied by the usual 'exam weather'. Paper 1 English was taken this morning, and there was certainly nothing in the Higher Level paper to increase those stress levels (Paper 2 tomorrow might be a different matter). Almost all our pupils take Higher Level.

The comprehension passages were interesting and well-chosen, starting with Colum McCann's 'Advice to Young Writers'. The second question on this text unusually opened up the literature course too, which probably surprised candidates, and this reappeared in different contexts for all the comprehension texts. Question B on this text was an interesting one about young people responding to 'unwanted advice'.

It was also good to see an extract from the very recently published Elmet by Fiona Mozley (above, shortlisted for last year's Man Booker Prize). The B question here was also accessible, being to do with 'the education you have received.'

The third text was the most inventively chosen, being from Above the Dreamless Dead, a collection of poetry and graphic illustration on the subject of World War 1 (here, an Isaac Rosenberg poem, 'Dead Man's Dump'. The questions fully exploited the meeting of the two media, and again the B question allowed candidates to use their literature knowledge.

The big question (25% of the overall mark) is of course the Composition. Two short stories, a descriptive essay, a personal essay, a speech and a discursive essay formed the mix this time. Candidates should have stayed away from a very demanding question of writing a short story in a collection of detective fiction (a tough one to take on extempore), but other tasks were more straightforward, including a essay about 'the value of personal space and quietness in the modern world'. Everyone sitting the Leaving Certificate should take just some such time this evening to themselves.

The Ordinary Level paper was as usual pretty straightforward. There were comprehension passages from Joanne O'Riordan (on technology and her disability Total Amelia - only seven people in the world have this), Larry Ryan (an interview with the Olympic rower Gary O'Donovan) and Nobel Peace Prize winner Kailash Satyarthi. The B questions posed no great challenges. In the full Composition section, there were three personal essays (including one on having or not having brothers/sisters), as well as a speech (impact of technology), two short stories and an article.

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Signs Of Life

Another poem by Tania Stokes, winner recently of the 2018 Peter Dix Memorial Prize for Poetry.

Signs of Life

One night,
I found myself under the stars.
I was alone
But for the brief flashes of cars
All driving home.

Always, the night hummed softly,
Engines revving somewhere else.
Under each orange spotlight
The faint buzz of lithium
Kept silence from waking.

The night grew strange

When the last pair of headlights
Melted away out of sight.
An absence reigned,
And the orange noise flickered
Down to nothing.

The quietest place in the world
Is by a road.
Silence, like an owl’s wings, unfurled
Into a shroud.

A remnant of the Rapture,
I walked in the white moonlight
And Debussy came to mind;
When the last bars drifted off,
I had been left behind.

The feeling grew

As I looked to the night sky,
Afraid I’d been forgotten.
I searched all through
The pattern of the heavens
To find the truth.

Though slight,
A sadness I could not describe
Came over me.
Somewhere, too far away from us,
There might be life.