“Education for Leisure” was written in 1985 by the British poet Carol Ann Duffy. It depicts the inner life of a disturbed teenager as he tortures and kills animals while proclaiming his genius. This twisted “education for leisure” ultimately culminates in the teenager stealing a kitchen knife and going on a violent rampage. Duffy wrote the poem as a social commentary while teaching in a school in London’s East End, and its subject matter has long been controversial. In 2008, protestors successfully lobbied to have the poem removed from a school anthology in the United Kingdom, although some schools have continued to teach the poem.
Today I am ...
... to play God.
It is an ...
... in the streets.
I squash a ...
... in another language.
I breathe out ...
... the chance.
But today I ...
... has hidden itself.
I pour the ...
... budgie is panicking.
Once a fortnight, ...
... appreciate my autograph.
There is nothing ...
... cuts me off.
I get our ...
... touch your arm.
Select any word below to get its definition in the context of the poem. The words are listed in the order in which they appear in the poem.
More About the Poem — From the BBC, helpful analysis and context for Duffy's poem, including a performance of the poem and a list of writing prompt ideas.
Additional Annotations — The text of the poem with helpful crowd-sourced annotations, from the lyric analysis encyclopedia Genius.
Curriculum Controversy — Read an op-ed from an English teacher in response to the controversial ban of the poem from the school curriculum in 2008.
The Ban of "Education for Leisure" — Read a summary of the original controversy around the banning of the poem in 2008.
A Live Reading — Watch a clip of the poem performed by actor Russell Tovey.
1Today I am going to kill something. Anything.
2I have had enough of being ignored and today
3I am going to play God. It is an ordinary day,
4a sort of grey with boredom stirring in the streets.
5I squash a fly against the window with my thumb.
6We did that at school. Shakespeare. It was in
7another language and now the fly is in another language.
8I breathe out talent on the glass to write my name.
9I am a genius. I could be anything at all, with half
10the chance. But today I am going to change the world.
11Something’s world. The cat avoids me. The cat
12knows I am a genius, and has hidden itself.
13I pour the goldfish down the bog. I pull the chain.
14I see that it is good. The budgie is panicking.
15Once a fortnight, I walk the two miles into town
16for signing on. They don’t appreciate my autograph.
17There is nothing left to kill. I dial the radio
18and tell the man he’s talking to a superstar.
19He cuts me off. I get our bread-knife and go out.
20The pavements glitter suddenly. I touch your arm.