Young poets retitle famous poems!

Recently we ran a challenge to rename famous poems, adding another perspective to the work. We really enjoyed reading your ideas, which were very inventive and encouraged us to approach the poems in new ways.

Helen Woods, 13, renamed ‘Ozymandias’ by Percy Bysshe Shelley as ‘The Justice of Re is powerful’. We liked Helen’s explanation that this is the meaning of Ozymandias’s Egyptian name, ‘User-maat-Re’ – and the new title thus hints that Ozymandias has been punished by Re for making himself almost god-like.

Jamie Uy, 16, retitled ‘This Is Just To Say’ by William Carlos Williams as ‘A Young J. Alfred Prufrock’. Prufrock is the eponymous character of TS Eliot’s famous poem ‘The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock’. We liked the character arc this suggests for Prufrock – from taking action (eating the plums) to leading a life of indecision (as he does in TS Eliot’s poem). Maybe the consequences of eating the plums led to this overwhelming wariness?!

Abbey Bradstreet, 15, has a new name for Edward Thomas’s ‘Adlestrop’ – ‘A Lifetime for a Bird’. We enjoyed the double meaning here: the suggestion that the speaker has spent his whole life remembering the blackbird in the poem, and also that the bird’s whole lifetime is captured in the glorious minute of song.

Serena Cooke, 18, was also inspired to retitle ‘This Is Just To Say’, to ‘The Prenuptial Disagreement’. We thought this was a witty riff on the idea of a prenuptial agreement, conjuring a complex relationship between the speaker and the owner of the plums. Is this a pledge about how the relationship will progress?

Another new title for William Carlos Williams’s ‘This Is Just To Say’ came from Iona Mandal, 8, who suggested ‘Matter of Fact’. We enjoyed the cheekiness of this – there is something very blunt about the speaker’s message, which this new title acknowledges, but it also prompts us to wonder about which facts are actually being presented. Were they being saved for breakfast? Does the speaker really want forgiveness?

Liam Caldwell, 18, decided to rename Shakespeare’s ‘Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?’ as ‘How By Breathing, your breath is fresh and Green’. We enjoyed the lyricism of this new title, the way it picked up on the summery imagery, and how it stresses that as long as there are readers living to read the poem, the speaker’s beloved will live on.

‘This Is Just To Say’ was so popular! We also liked the new title ‘Yours Insincerely, an Impenitent Thief’ from Sophia Tait, 13. It can be easy to take the words ‘Forgive me’ at face value – but Sophia makes us wonder about the way language can be used to suggest its opposite.

Beth Davies, 16, suggested ‘Opposites Attract: A Fable’ as the new title for Edward Lear’s poem ‘The Owl and the Pussycat’. This made us think about all the opposites which are so appealingly placed together in the poem – the owl and the pussycat, the quince and the mince, the everyday ‘spoon’ with the mysterious ‘runcible’. Lear’s poems always delight in pushing at the boundaries of language and meaning, and Beth’s new title makes this clear.

Our final new title for ‘This Is Just To Say’ is ‘A Fruit Bat’s I.O.U.’ from Cain Jones, 16. The idea that the speaker is a fruit bat really made us smile – and also made us see the minimalist style of the poem in a new light, as a way to represent the voice of a small animal.

Published Decemebr, 2014


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *