Thursday, 8 October 2015

I Chair A Meeting

Using the excuse of National Poetry Day, I opened the Programme Management Board for the BA (Hons) Social Work Programme with a poem: The Road Not Taken.  I suspect this hasn't been done in a PMB before, but no matter.

Robert Frost's poem is about decision-making, and, if I had to justify reading it at 11.00 am in work time, I'd say that social work is about trying to work out with people in a variety of contexts and in a variety of circumstances what are the better decisions.

As with all very famous poems, it's easy to think there is one right reading of it to be achieved - that it would be possible to take a wrong turning and come to a false conclusion.  Perhaps that ideal reading would be what Robert Frost intended, but he himself is reported as having called the poem, "very tricky."  I incline to Roland Barthes' argument in Death of the Author, which is, loosely, that author and work are separate, and therefore a poem can mean whatever it means to you, dear reader.

I'm not sure exactly what my colleagues made of this poem this morning, but their response was positive, and we went on to accomplish all our tasks in good humour, and we finished on time.  I am confident that the decision I made to read a poem, rather than to take the more well-trodden path of not reading a poem, is one I won't regret.

The Road Not Taken
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

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