Posted: July 22, 2018 in Chat
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In a letter from 1994 Ted Hughes was explaining his and Tony Buzan’s efforts to popularise memory techniques. They had approached three of the main Preparatory Schools in England about their ideas. This had been an enduring  area of Ted Hughes’ many interests; he was offering inducements to Freida and Nicholas, his children, back in 1971, in a letter from his Persian adventure with Peter Brook.
Tony Buzan was also an associate/friend of the Kate Bush family circle about the same time.

The 1994 Ted Hughes letter states:

Over the years, wherever I’ve suggested it to teachers, or given a little demonstration in class… the teacher’s reaction has always been the same: ‘but if they learned everything so fast, what would we do with the empty time?’

This is an obviously supercilious response; one of exasperation by the teachers, of course. Here were two non-education professionals intruding upon their own roles as educators and trying to teach them their job. The simplistic comment is very much in line with the ‘English way’ of inverted targeting. I am rather surprised Ted Hughes and Tony Buzan were not aware of the toes they stood upon, or the reasons for the responses they received.

In his introduction to the By Heart anthology, of 1997, Ted Hughes discusses mnemonic systems, based on the classic memory systems that Frances Yates outlined in her Art of Memory. Tony Buzan’s work explored the cognitive aspects of memory systems, mind-mapping techniques in particular.

The memory and mind-mapping techniques they were intent on promoting, became educational business shortly after this. I remember putting our son forward to take a course in the techniques as an adjunct of higher school learning. He found them very usable and useful.


There is something that unnerves, I find, about the mind-map. To me it appears chaotic, disordered, and un-navigable. A mind-map, is, though, the individual’s own system: the linkages and general layout are from the person’s requirements. How easy it is to read  someone else’s system, is a question that becomes further confounded by unlicensed use and promotion.

And does this go some way to answering the question of whether one person’s map could have meaning to another person? A matter of degree, of course: there are always universal elements in everything.
– The question I am circling here, somewhat, is whether one person needs a background in the specifics and structured arguments of the techniques in order to gain from someone else’s map.
If that is so, then does any argument that such techniques are structured on the way the mind works not hold up?   That it is an imposed system, like any other.
Or is this further proof that we are all unique and individual?
Is it a more successful system, than any previous ones? Or is it valued purely for its newness?

There was an exhibition of a wall-size banner by Grayson Perry, in Sheffield Art Gallery last year, that we made a point of visiting. I did find the layout of the comments, messages that it contained, dismayingly chaotic, and could not detect any order to them. The mind-map structure of the exhibit did not occur to me until recently. Could this be the system layout he used?

  1. Candia says:

    Hmmm, I also was a warm up poet for Jo Shapcott in the 1990s, in the New Forest Arts Centre, New Milton! So long ago! She had just won the Nat Poetry Comp for the second time.

  2. Well, well!
    I do have a great liking for her work – think I have all her books.
    How are you? How’s your world?

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