Jessie Pope is no longer a household name, but during World War One she was one of the most widely read poets. After decades in obscurity she has re-emerged to become a fixture on the English literature syllabus, but for all the wrong reasons.
That’s the beginning of The WW1 Poet Kids are Taught to Dislike, a good new article on the BBC website. It discusses the strange fact that Jessie Pope, a light and chirpy versifier, is the third most taught poet in Great War literature classes, after Owen and Sassoon.
Marek Pruszewicz, the author of the article, quotes me on the subject, and also Anne-Marie Einhaus, who explains very well why Jessie is so popular:
My theory is when you are teaching, especially at GCSE level, what you need is a clear message,” says Einhaus. “So you travel the journey from jingoism to total disillusionment and Jessie Pope fits well with that. It’s particularly handy to beat her with the stick of disillusionment.
Here’s the graph that shows the classroom popularity (with teachers if not students) of WW1 writers. It’s from Ann-Marie Einhaus’s article in The Use of English for Summer 2014. Click it to enlarge.
The next question, of course, is – Why teach Michael Morpurgo?