Saturday, September 27, 2008

Introduction to Poetry

Dear Everyone:

Today, another poem by one of our favorite poets, Billy Collins. And, as a special favor to Sean, it’s not one he heard two days before on A Prairie Home Companion!

Introduction to Poetry
by Billy Collins

I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive

[Rest of poem removed because it’s probably still in copyright]

Ahem. I believe that today, mirabile dictu, I have nothing to add.

All best,

p.s. Marvelous useful Latin tag, mirabile dictu! Especially for those of you who like being ironic to someone’s face without (the standards of education today being what they are) being called on it. Look it up.



Markin said...

It's still in copyright, but there's a legal copy on the Library of Congress website:

I was turned off of poetry for many years by having to dissect poems and analyze their meaning in high school English. Not unlike taking apart a flower and labelling its parts -- you end up destroying its beauty. (I actually wrote a poem to that effect when I was in high school. My English teacher did not appreciate it.) Collins is absolutely right.

Michael Swanwick said...

I was turned off of poetry in grammar school, because I hated having to memorize it. (Marianne loved it, though, and takes great pleasure in being able to recite them even today; so that was more my fault than the school's.) Now, however, the schools seem to have gone in the opposite direction and simply don't expose the kids to poetry at all. Sean and his friends were all curious about the stuff but had no idea where to begin. Hence these letters.

They don't teach 'em grammar anymore either. Makes me wonder what they DO teach nowadays. "Creativity," I fear.

-- Ye Olde Curmudgeon

Markin said...

I can't remember ever being asked to memorize poetry. Except for once in senior high school English, when we could either do a term paper on Chaucer or memorize the first 20-odd lines of the Canterbury Tales. In the original Middle English. To my astonishment, I find I can still rattle off the first fifteen-odd lines, if not letter perfect, than at least well enough to impress the heck out of people who don't know any Middle English.

Unfortunately, my memory has turned to mush over the years, and I find myself almost incapable of memorizing any significant amount of anything at all. Although I note to my astonishment that I can sing along to the "golden oldies" of my misspent teenage years even though I haven't heard the songs in four decades. Lyrics are poetry.

I suspect what turned you off was in part the prospect of having to perform the poem in front of a class full of nasty little kids just hoping for you to fail miserably and a teacher you suspected of expecting the same.

As for grammar ... I hav n idea wot U mean ... wot do U nEd grammar 4?


-- As curmudgeonly as you ... and as olde [grin]