Thursday 8 December 2016

Exam Diary: Poetry in motion as manageable paper finally came to be

Published 10/06/2011 | 05:00

WELL, she was there: Eavan Boland's absence from the poetry question on English Paper 2 had become a bit of a saga.

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Bookmaker Paddy Power had Boland as the favourite to appear on last year's paper, and when she didn't appear, thousands of teens lamented that they had been stood up by the Irish poet.

This year however, there was no controversy. Boland appeared as predicted, as did Emily Dickinson and Robert Frost. WB Yeats completed the selection.

Each person had their own poet of choice. In recent weeks, Facebook had become almost like a library, with every second status naming a poet and extolling their virtues.

When Emily Dickinson wrote her poetry, alone in the bedroom of her Massachusetts home, I bet that she never thought that one day her name would be popular on a social networking site called Twitter. The only tweets she ever heard of were those made by the bird "that came down the walk".

Naturally, nerves set in before the exam. However, they were eased before I went through the door by a friend who told me that I would have no problem with the exam -- after all, I was almost fluent at English.

I remarked that she was remarkably confident, and she countered: "Me, fail English? That's unpossible!"

Ah, if only we were asked to recount scenes from 'The Simpsons'.

After the mystery that characterised English Paper 1 on Wednesday, thankfully paper 2 threw up no serious surprises.

The general reaction was that 'Hamlet' was extremely manageable.

I found the unseen poem straightforward. However, I thought there was a slight twist on the comparative question, which involved a lot of remodelling of the answer I had prepared.

Overall, I was happy.

The volume of writing on paper 2 is unbelievable, as each question demands long, detailed and engaging answers.

The paper also demands a pencil case full of different pens, as ink levels fall dangerously low, and food to boost plummeting energy reserves.

Coming towards the end of the paper, I expected my hand to raise itself in Hamlet-esque mode and proclaim: "To be or not to be", such were the vagaries of writing cramps.

Would it be "nobler in mind" to suffer the "slings and arrows" of this outrageously long paper, or take "arms against a sea" of cramps and aches by leaving?

However, the satisfaction of writing my final words was worth the pain and I left the exam centre with a lighter spirit.

Any jubilation, however, was countered by an arm that felt as heavy as lead.

The engineering exam was on yesterday as well, and a friend found it reasonably straightforward.

That is not the end of my endurance tests, as today I have geography and Maths Paper 1.

On a study break, more commonly known as a Facebook break, I came across a page entitled 'maths puns: the first sine of madness'.

If I can make it past tomorrow, surely I won't go mad. Will I?

*Gavin Cooney is a student at Mercy Secondary School, Ballymahon, Co Longford.

Irish Independent

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