Room

I wrote this poem in March of this year and it’s about how at school they don’t really teach you to think for yourself. But instead, they teach you how to regurgitate information in a way that allows them to allot a letter (or number) to your usefulness as a person.

And at school I felt like I was in a psychological prison that looked a lot like the dystopian setting from Nineteen Eighty-Four. In a way, I had a room of one’s own, a cage. At least at university, you are pushed to challenge and debate.

The poem takes its name from the Emma Donoghue novel Room which has since been adapted (by Donoghue) to film, with Brie Larson picking up an Oscar for her amazing performance.


School never taught me about CVs.
Only Chris Columbus on American seas.
I wasn’t taught about taxes and arrears.
and that’s only one of my many fears.

They didn’t teach us about politics and voting.
Only about Romeo and Juliet’s secret eloping.
At home I learnt about current affairs and media.
At school they taught us about Iago and Ophelia.

We didn’t study the Atlantic Slave Trade,
Post-war immigration or The Cotton Famine.
Instead, we studied Hitler, the Nazi threat and
how we crippled Germany with the Versailles debt.

I was never taught about policing and laws.
I was taught about 1066 and Viking oars.
I was never taught about my human rights
but I was ferried to Belgian bomb sites.

I know about our Roman straight roads
but very little about the Highway Code.
I learned about volcanic eruptions but not
about democracy or political corruption.

I was taught about Vietnam’s Rolling Thunder
but not about the British Empire’s plunder.
I was told to wear a Poppy for the war dead
but not how to sow with needle and thread.

I was taught about Watson & Crick and DNA
strands, but not capitalism or high street brands.
I was taught how to pray with my hands in a steeple
but never how to converse with human people.

Financial advice? Human rights? Forget about it!
I know nothing about the activities of Wall Street
but I know about the Dreadnought and the arms race.
I know about igneous rocks but I can’t fix a lock.

My generation: manipulated by what media airs and ill-
prepared for the outside world, caring more about celebrity
culture than The Panama Leaks or how money works.
Listening to the soundtracks of our lives like watching fireworks.

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