We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
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Sunday, January 30. 2011
"I don't understand it. I don't like it. And I don't think anyone would think differently. There's nothing you're trying to say that hasn't been said before you. And everyone who's said it before you has said it better than you have."
That was part of the critique the pupette got on her recent college poetry writing course effort. I guess everything is supposed to be new, despite what Ecclesiastes teaches us. She has always been told in the past that she is a talented writer. She did say "I'd like to point out, however, that this professor is phenomenal."
"That's what we are paying them for - tough criticism, high demands, and a dose of humility. If you could meet their demands already, what would be the point of being there and paying them money? My best teachers ripped me to shreds. They want to stretch you to your max and beyond it to find your limits, and that is good. We can't all be TS Eliots, and few youths have enough life under their belts to write poems that are more than pretty strings of words anyway. Don't worry - you have your friends and family to love you regardless."
Last week I sent her a poem that my brain wrote during a dream. (I never sit down to write a poem, but sometimes they come to me so I try to put them on paper before they disappear. Generally, I only share them with my sis who is a published poet.) I thought this one might have been about my college pup, or maybe any one of my kids, and did not add the title until I guessed what it could be about. I would not want to show it to a Prof.
First you jumped
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BD, that's a gorgeous, light-filled, kinetic piece of writing.
Most of us should stay away from poetry. Yours is nice, like a dream.
You had me at "My Child", Bird Dog. My youngest is a senior English major and an aspiring writer. She returned home with little tattoos on her feet. Another of mine leaves for a foreign shore next week, and he will be painted. He has stretched himself to be a Green Beret, and is off to "dissolve" into Afghanistan. Your dream speaks to my moment, trying to hold this child of mine in my heart, where I seek them when they're gone. They do return, ever different, causing my heart to expand to contain them.
wow --what a comment --great stuff, two lane. good on ya and your son too.
There's nothing you're trying to say that hasn't been said before you.
I find that interesting - in particular from a english or poetry professor or whatever he's called.
You would think that he would know that there's nothing that hasn't been said before. There are only so many thematic options - six in fact - available to a writer or poet: Character, Plot, Ideas, Language, Music, Spectacle. Within these six basic themes, there are only seven types of actions - vs. nature, vs. wo/man, vs. the environment, vs. machines/technology, vs. the supernatural, vs. self, vs. god/religion.
Its all a variation on a theme. You get to pick the theme and action, but any exploration of that theme/action probably has been done before - not necessarily for the better
It really is in how the variation is presented that makes the difference - to appeal to the individual's taste in words, feelings or emotional baseline in terms they can relate to. That same poem, given to a different instructor/professor, may speak volumes if only because that individual hasn't seen or heard anything like it.
It's all new if you haven't heard it before.
I just found that statement terribly arrogant and self serving. Then again, I never really got along with any of the literature professors in college believing them to all be a bunch of elitist prigs with no saving social graces.
I'm probably biased. :>)
the word missing is ''classic'' --the prof should've told BD's daughter that she had re-written a classic idea, and that the classic exists because they open a whole new universe of creative variety that can only be appreciated thru understanding the classic structure.
Like the Blues --always the same 12 bars, always the same I-IV-V chords of any key, always tonic, subdominant, dominant. But that hard structure is exactly what blues artists need to show their stuff --without it they would just be making pop music, or even worse, 'novelty songs' (doggie in the window, flying purple people eater, itsy bitsy teenie weenie yellow polka dot bikini).
Teach shoulda told the young lady to ''keep it up''. Teach should understand that the search for the new is not the search for novelty.
Teach is 'shallow'.
That is a good point Buddy - well said. Perhaps the correct way to view it isn't necessarily "new" but different - innovative if you will.
And your point about the blues is spot on.
Well, that sounds a bit strong, Captain.
Those folks know more about it than I do. However, I always appreciated rough teachers.
For me, a short poem is like a crystal of words, same as a painting is a crystal of paint, or an ambitious photo. The issue is whether it crystallizes in the reader's brain.
Well, yes - it was harsh and perhaps a too strong and for that level of tone, I apologize.
I still make the case though that one person's trash is another person's treasure. Just because this particular professor didn't get it does not mean that another wouldn't which he stated as fact.
I also believe in a firm and strong hand in education. And I had my fair share of them through both under grad and graduate school - one in particular who to this day I admire and respect. At the same time however, I also feel that while strong critique is valuable, the manner in which it is delivered makes all the difference and this just struck me as a little off-putting.
I know tough teachers. However, I tend to concur with Captain Woodstock. My opinion of English teachers is that if you want to keep a love of literature, keep away from English teachers. That is based on both high school and college.
Really liked your poem, Bird Dog. As for the pupette's professor -- well. not so much. I think buddy's gloss on the subject is right on. In my somewhat brief experiences as a teacher, I have found that shaming a student who is trying, is a poor way to communicate and an even poorer way to motivate. And after all, that's what the professor is supposed to do. So the professor's grade from me is a D. Tell the pupette I said so. Fight on, fight on furiously, pupette, and show the nasty bugger up.
For me the key section of the critique was, "I don't understand it. I don't like it." That's pretty much how I feel about poetry in general. Since I have a doctorate in linguistics, does that mean that I get to trash the entire field of poetry? I don't think so. Isn't the defining characteristic of poetry the quality of taking something that we do understand and expressing it in a linguistically more compact form? Compactness, density, crystalization, all render things less permeable, so it takes more work to extract the meaning. Folks [including profs] have to do the work, find the angle, to get to the meaning. That should apply to student poetry as well.
Beautifully expressed, Weaver.
"I don't understand it. I don't like it.” [I didn't like it]. Period. After that, the argument self-destructs.
“ And I don't think anyone would think differently.” [My own opinion doesn’t really count – I need a mob to validate me].
“There's nothing you're trying to say that hasn't been said before you. And everyone who's said it before you has said it better than you have." [Therefore, I DO understand it, else I couldn’t make that statement. I just disagree with the underlying premise].
I liked your poem a lot. I guess if you wanted to look at it critically, you could maybe lose a word here or there to make it "neater" - especially in the beginning verses - but who needs a neat poem anyways ;-)
I especially like the final
you returned from a foreign shore
tall, and painted blue,
asking what we do next."
My best poetry/literature teacher was a mild,quiet guy. In his early 50's still see the trauma of Nam deep in the face. Worked for the Catholics at a private high school for years, then they moved him over to the U--lucky me. Soft spoken he always encouraged, but knew his stuff. Knew how to ask the right questions and where to point you. I used to close my eyes and try to imagine him as a point man in camo--didn't work to well. How years can change a torn heart. From terror and pain and ptsd to teaching literature with compassion and insight at a high end private university. One wife all the time--wonder if that had anything to do with the quality of his journey?
apple pie, my friend ... You say that splendid teacher, a veteran in many ways, many wars, had one wife all of that time, and you wonder if that had anything to do with the quality of his journey. I'll bet it did, my dear.
Back in the days when our soldiers returned from the Second World War, we didn't get a lot of psychological counseling from strangers. The most effective counseling was from our own families. It may have taken longer, but I wonder if it didn't have greater insight and compassion.
When my first husband died of "service connected disability" after only two years of marriage, I tried the psychiatrist route for six months or so, and found no comfort or support that was nearly as effective as that which my family gave me.
A good spouse is a wonderful thing. As Robert Louis Stevenson said in his birthday poem to his wife, she was "teacher, tender comrade, wife, A fellow farer true through life." Pretty good description, don't you think
Of Mere Being
The palm at the end of the mind,
Beyond the last thought, rises
In the bronze distance.
A gold-feathered bird
Sings in the palm, without human meaning,
Without human feeling, a foreign song.
You know then that it is not the reason
That makes us happy or unhappy.
The bird sings. Its feathers shine.
The palm stands on the edge of space.
The wind moves slowly in the branches.
The bird's fire-fangled feathers dangle down.
-- Wallace Stevens, 1954
...that poem always makes a glimpse of the small bright and intricate against the featureless dun expanse --i guess the Egypt news brought it up --the hieroglyphics --
((goofy: see your name in hieroglyphics at