Using form: couplets: George Simmers, ‘Trigger Warning’

Reading this do not expect
An unconditional respect

This poem is an unsafe space
You may be told things to your face

This poem may not feel the need
To be polite about your creed

It may not think your origins
Excuse your weaknesses or sins

It maybe will not lend its voice
To validate your lifestyle choice

It may resist attempts to curb
Its power to worry or disturb

It may not think its task to be
To flatter your identity

Although its author’s male and white
It may perhaps assert the right

To speak of gender and of race.
This poem is an unsafe space

*****

George Simmers continues to be amazed and amused by the warnings that some University lecturers seem to think it essential to give their students.  He writes: “Last week there was a warning that Jane Austen’s novels contain some outdated sexual attitudes. The week before that, students thinking of taking a course on tragedy needed to be told that it might contain references to violence and other disturbing themes. The week before that someone was worried that Peter Pan contained material that some students might find it hard to cope with. Why is this? Are the lecturers afraid of legal action from the helicopter parents who are the plague of some University departments today? Or do they really feel that their students are all delicate blossoms? Or do the warnings reflect their own discomfort with the canonical material they are obliged to teach? In the past people often did not think or behave the way that responsible modern people think they should have. It must be worrying.”

Editor’s comments: Poems written as a string of rhyming couplets can quickly start to feel mechanical and boring, but they are very effective when a straightforward list of ideas is being presented, as in this poem by Simmers. ‘The Latest Decalogue‘ by Arthur Hugh Clough is a classic of good usage (and also a classic of “unsafe space”).

George Simmers used to be a teacher; now he spends much of his time researching literature written during and after the First World War. He has edited Snakeskin since 1995. It is probably the oldest-established poetry zine on the Internet. His work appears in several Potcake Chapbooks. ‘Trigger Warning’ is from his ‘Old and Bookish‘ collection of poems.
https://greatwarfiction.wordpress.com/
http://www.snakeskinpoetry.co.uk/

Photo: “trigger warning” by lostcosmonaut is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

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