An undesirable effect of testing?

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Why do you think the 'I' of the poem constantly failed exams

Just found the poem below by Brian Patten, one of the Liverpudlian Beat poets from the 1960s, on the IATEFL TEA in Istanbul blog.

Why do you think the 'I' of the poem constantly failed exams? And, what can we test writers learn from this poor person's experience?


Minister for Exams

When I was a child I sat an exam.
This test was so simple
There was no way i could fail.

Q1. Describe the taste of the Moon.

It tastes like Creation I wrote,
it has the flavour of starlight.

Q2. What colour is Love?

Love is the colour of the water a man
lost in the desert finds, I wrote.

Q3. Why do snowflakes melt?

I wrote, they melt because they fall
on to the warm tongue of God.

There were other questions.
They were as simple.

I described the grief of Adam
when he was expelled from Eden.
I wrote down the exact weight of
an elephant’s dream

Yet today, many years later,
For my living I sweep the streets
or clean out the toilets of the fat

Why? Because constantly I failed
my exams.
Why? Well, let me set a test.

Q1. How large is a child’s
Q2. How shallow is the soul of the
Minister for exams?

Brian Patten

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