About 370 Year 12 students visited the University of New England last Friday to gain fresh insights into texts they’re studying for the Higher School Certificate English examinations.
The writer of one of those texts, the award-winning Australian poet Peter Skrzynecki (pictured here), was on hand to talk to them about his poetry – and poetry in general.
Peter Skrzynecki’s third book of poems, Immigrant Chronicle (1975), is a set text for the HSC. His talk on Friday included a discussion of one of the poems in the book – “In the Folk Museum” – that, he explained, was “a poem about New England”. “It relates to the HSC English topic area of ‘belonging’,” he said.
Another well-known Australian poet, Michael Sharkey (who is an Associate Professor at UNE), talked to them about the war poems of Wilfred Owen, while other UNE English lecturers discussed HSC texts – from Hamlet to The Castle – related to their own research interests.
“I think the students got a different perspective on the texts – and what literature is and does,” said Dr Elizabeth Hale, the academic coordinator of this year’s University of New England HSC English Regional Day, which was sponsored by UNE’s School of Arts. “While their teachers do a wonderful job in a ‘generalist’ context, their day at UNE gives them a more ‘specialist’ perspective.”
The students came from schools in Armidale, Bingara, Coffs Harbour, Glen Innes, Guyra, Moree, Tamworth and Warialda. “It was great to see them here in such large numbers and displaying such dedication and focus,” Dr Hale said.
Peter Skrzynecki began his 20-year teaching career at a one-teacher school at Jeogla, New England, in 1967. Holding BA and MLitt degrees from UNE, he said he had “connections with UNE and Armidale going back to the 1960s”. “Armidale keeps drawing me back,” he said, explaining that “In the Folk Museum” was inspired by a visit to the Armidale Folk Museum during one of those return journeys.
“Poetry is vital,” he said. “It touches on our innermost issues. In events such as today’s, I aim to show young people that there is a real place for it in their lives.”
THE PHOTOGRAPH of Peter Skrzynecki displayed here expands to include Tom Bannigan and Narelle Hegarty from O’Connor Catholic College, Armidale, and UNE’s Dr Elizabeth Hale.