Syrian student who failed GCSE English exam praised for poem about homeland

Ftoun Abou Kerech wrote “The Doves of Damascus” shortly after arriving in the UK aged 14, in which she writes about the sadness she felt about leaving Syria. (Twitter: @KateClanchy1)
Updated 24 August 2019

Syrian student who failed GCSE English exam praised for poem about homeland

  • Ftoun Abou Kerech wrote “The Doves of Damascus” shortly after arriving in the UK

LONDON: A Syrian student in the UK who failed her English GCSE exams has gone viral with a poem she wrote about her homeland.
Ftoun Abou Kerech wrote “The Doves of Damascus” shortly after arriving in the UK aged 14, in which she writes about the sadness she felt about leaving Syria and what made it special to her.
Her teacher, Kate Clanchy — who is also an award-winning poet herself — posted it on Twitter and it was quickly picked up and praised by social media users.
Clanchy, speaking to the UK’s The Times newspaper, said she posted the poem in frustration that the current GCSE system did not recognize “literary talent and imaginative use of language.”

She said: “The new GCSE is the last straw in a bundle of shallow thinking.
“It is over-determined syllabuses and bullying of teachers which has been getting heavier for a long, long time,” she added.
Syrian student Kerech achieved a 4 in her English Language exam, but 5 is considered a good pass.
Her poem was picked up by notable authors like Joanne Harris, author of Chocolat, and Sir Philip Pullman — author of His Dark Materials — who hailed the student as a “talent.”
 

 

 

— — —

The Doves of Damascus

I lost my country and everything I
had before.

And now
I cannot remember for sure
the soft of the snow in my country.
I cannot remember
the feel of the damp air in summer.

Sometimes I think I remember
the smell of the jasmine
as I walked down the street

And sometimes autumn
With its orange and scarlet leaves
Flying in the high Damascus sky.

And I am sure I remember
my grandmother’s roof garden,
its vines, its sweet red grapes,
The mint she grew in crates for tea.

I remember the birds, the doves
of Damascus. I remember
how they scattered. I remember
Trying to catch them.


A day in Elton John’s life: Buy Rolls, write hit song, dine with Ringo

Updated 19 October 2019

A day in Elton John’s life: Buy Rolls, write hit song, dine with Ringo

  • Diary entries helped jog Elton John’s memories from his 50-year career
  • ‘Even when I was doing a lot of drugs, I still carried on playing music’

LONDON: When Elton John was working on his new autobiography, the legendary singer, songwriter and performer pulled out diaries he had been encouraged to write during a stint in rehab.
One entry read like this: “Got up, tidied the house, bought a Rolls Royce, had dinner, wrote ‘Candle in the Wind,’ had dinner with Ringo Starr,” the musician said. “That was one day.”
John, 72, spoke in a video interview provided to Reuters by his publisher, Henry Holt & Co., to promote the release of his book, which is titled simply “Me.”
The diary entries helped jog John’s memories from his 50-year career filled with hit records, Grammy awards and royal friendships but also addiction and a suicide attempt two days before a show at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.
“I wanted to show the tough ride of being a successful artist, and how I went through tough times, and how I came out at the end and got my life together,” John said. “It’s the story of my life up to the present day, warts and all.”
In the book, the “Crocodile Rock” singer revealed recent health scares including a near-fatal infection and a serious bout with appendicitis. “I did like 10 or 11 shows, 24 flights, with a burst appendix,” he said.
John is currently in the middle of a lengthy “Farewell Yellow Brick Road” world tour that will bring his touring career to an end. In the interview, he said performing on stage “just never gets old.”
“I never go on stage late,” he said. “I just love to get out there and I’m raring to go.”
“Even when I was doing a lot of drugs, I still carried on playing music,” he added. “It’s been my touchstone of my whole life.”
A highlight, John said, came in 1975 when John Lennon joined him to perform three songs at Madison Square Garden. It was Lennon’s first appearance on stage in New York since the Beatles played Shea Stadium.
Lennon was so nervous that he vomited before the performance, John said. “He came out to probably the most touching ovation I’ve ever heard,” John said. “We all shed a tear on stage.”
John said he is not sure what his future holds but he is still writing songs.
“I don’t know what’s next and I don’t want to know what’s next,” he said. “I’m just ready for the next chapter.”