Friday, February 25, 2005

Rock On, Poetry!

I've refrained from posting poems or lyrics or such on this site because I quickly divined that that WannaBeMom's blog would turn into a quote-o-matic. But there are so many good poems out there. One my favorite classes I have taught was Introduction to Poetry. I did pretty much all contemporary poets. Many of the students who enrolled in the class were terrified of poetry. I have this same experience when I teach Creative Writing. It's because the poetry we were taught in high school was excruciatingly boring to us at that time in our lives. (Okay, I totally should have qualified that statement; of course it was interesting to at least one student every five years.) If we had been given the contemporary stuff, poems we could have identified with more, then poetry might have seemed so awful. And then once you have an appreciation for the genre, it's much easier to ease into the classic stuff. It becomes more palatable. (All this being said, you can guess I was the once-in-five-years geek student and liked [but didn't love] classic stuff.)

When devising my curriculum for the Intro to Poetry course, I had one friend who derided me for not teaching the classical stuff. Her criticism crawled under my skin, and as I was handing out syllabi, and watching the faces of my students, I wondered if I was letting my students down -- was I being an irresponsible teacher? Well, I have the answer now and it's a resouding "Hell, no!" I still see some of these students are poetry readings. I think that equals success. Not only that, but their writing! Oh, their writing...

When I give my students some of these contemporary poems by living poets, they are floored. They realize how alive the whole genre is. They stop writing down the center of the page, rhyming in cat-in-the-hat style, and quit giving me bad Hallmark syrupy verse.

I was really lucky in high school. I was also a very bad student. It was so bleeding boring to me. I would sit in Biology or Chemistry or Math (notice a trend?) with a book on my lap. Reading. Never what was assigned. I could have been a very good autodidact, which is probably why I succeeded in college (after one very disastrous party year.) To make a long story short, there was that one teacher who understood I was a writer. She was the first one to show me "live" poets. I fell hard for them. Now I still write the poetry; I am published and have won a prize or two. I can't stand how much I adore crafting the line, thinking of the right word, reading the poem aloud.... Wow.

And when I read a great poem by someone else-- I get shivers. Sometimes I cry mid-poem. I even do this when teaching. My students keep a "goose-pimple" watch: those in the front rows call out to the back-wall residers my physical reactions.

All this and I still won't tell people, "I'm a poet." Doesn't it sound ridiculous? Affected almost. Or like a high school student. I tell people I am a writer, and this is true also. I do write fiction. Essays. Dissertations. But in my soul, it's all poetry, baby!

So, here's what I thought, once a week I'll have a guest poem. Of course this raises all sorts of copyright hackles with me-- but whatever-- I'm doing it anyway. If you're the poet, and you see your poem posted here, you can sue me, but you might instead feel flattered that someone is in love with your work, enough to want other people to know it. Think twice, oh-litigious ones!

Comment on the poems I post, please! I want to know if you like them too. (And these poems will never ever be my own work-- I am not quite that self-absorbed.) By limiting myself to once a week, hopefully the poems won't take over the blog.

And since you've stayed with me for this long, I'll only give an excerpt today, a perfect hopeful excerpt on day when it's snowing yet again in this cold cold state:

If we were as eloquent,
If what we say could spread the good news the way that dogwood does,
Its votive candles
phosphorous and articulate in the green haze
Of spring, surely something would hear us.

--Charles Wright

and now the problem becomes apparent-- my space in this stupid format is limited, and sometimes you aren't going to be able to see the line breaks the way they were intended. Arg. Line breaks are important! I don't know enough about html to fix this, but we'll see what I can do--


Blogger Firefly said...

Type <*br*> at the end of a line, where you want a line break and it should do what you want.
*(Leave out the *'s, just put in br, it wouldn't let me use the proper code in the comment)

The Firefly by Charles Ghigna <*br*>
The firefly is quite a sight<*br*>
Upon the summer wind.<*br*>Instead of shining where he goes,<*br*>
He lights up where he’s been.<*br*>

1:06 PM  
Blogger Robin said...

Really enjoying your blog. Beautiful.

6:51 PM  
Blogger Katie (WannaBeMom) said...

Thanks, Fly and Robin!

I think my problem with line breaks is not the break, per se, it's the longer lines that shouldn't be broken...

Thanks again, guys.


3:43 PM  
Blogger Robin said...

P.S. You are a poet.

10:01 PM  

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