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Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Gangnam Style: Standing The Test Of Time?

First up, here is a poem I wrote recently (it doesn't yet have a title; if anyone can think of a good one, please get in touch);

I leap with joy
I dance about
Run round the garden
Scream and shout
Tear off my shirt
And cry with glee
Slide on my knees
Ecstatically
I pump my fists
I flash a smile
I do the twist
Dance Gangnam Style
I beat my chest
I'm going mad -
I scored a penalty
Against my dad.

Now, anyone who knows me moderately well will know that I am not one to give much thought to what is currently fashionable. Thus, I have missed the boat by several months in giving a shout-out to Gangnam Style in the poem above. That said, I know for a fact that the song is still hugely popular in primary schools, and almost all children will get the reference in the poem to 'dancing Gangnam Style'. I haven't yet had a chance to perform it in school, but I hope this reference will make people laugh (especially when combined with the appropriate actions).

The reference to Gangnam Style raises a question: to what extent is it appropriate to refer to no doubt fleeting aspects of contemporary culture when writing poetry for children? I'm sure the question can be expanded beyond poetry and beyond children, but these things raise particular issues: children and young people are often highly attuned to fashions and trends, and are thus likely to appreciate such references, and the kind of children's poetry I write tends to strive for immediacy and accessibility. I thus want to talk to children about a world that is relevant to them.

However, there is an obvious problem with referring to things like Gangnam Style in a children's poem: will the children of the future know what on earth I'm going on about? Perhaps I'm being supremely arrogant in assuming that a small pop-culture reference is all that stands between myself and timelessness, but it is a concern of mine. I'm sure I could tweak the references to reflect contemporary trends, but I have to admit that, with a few exceptions, I tend to shy away from anything that would root my work too firmly in a specific time and place.

I'd be interested to hear what others think about this. In the meantime, I'm congratulating myself for having mentioned Gangnam Style in a poem.

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