Thursday, June 29, 2006

Poetry is Lacking

When I was a youth
I never learned poesy
Until I was in
7th or 8th grade,
In what was then called Junior High
Or now called Middle School.

It was an English Lit class
But was mainly about poetry
Of the modernist type
Such as free verse
(Just like this)
And concrete poetry
Which I shall not illustrate,
And the poems of
Edward E. Cummings
Who always wrote
In annoying lowercase.

Never once did I hear
In that class
Of iambic pentameter
Or dactylic hexameter
Like was taught to
My Catholic friends;
Instead I was told that
Rhyme was not needed,
Nor any structure at all:
We had to color
Outside of the lines.

(Nowadays Rappers
Rhyme every line;
What once was deficit
Is now an excess.)

To this very day
I am unable to perceive
Meter in lines,
No matter how hard I try,
And can't hear where
Accents ought to go.
It is due to classes
Like the one I attended
That white men have lost
All sense of rhythm.

But that English teacher,
A young Hippie Chick,
Suggested that I read
A most interesting book
"Lord of the Rings",
by J.R.R. T.!
It was not Modernist,
In the least;
A dangerous book
Against all that is new,
Filled with poetry,
in the Classical Sense,
And a plan of the Divine,
Banned in the Public School.


  1. I guess I was at the tail end of the tradition of memorizing poetry in high school. But, then again, my fifth grade teacher started teaching in a one room school in 1918. She retired just after my year with her so I'd imagine it ended with us. Unfortunately, it was things like The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere but the fact that I can still remember parts of it almost forty years later shows something.

  2. Some years ago I read an interview of a Muslim terrorist. His reason for wanting to attack the U.S. was quite unexpected: he was a great fan of American literature and poetry, and especially liked F. Scott Fitzgerald. But when he came to the U.S. as a student, he was shocked that Americans neither read nor could quote from the great American writers. The U.S., to him, was poetically dead. He became a terrorist because he thought that Americans weren't worthy of our high culture.

    What he didn't understand is that we Americans are rich and so we hire people to read books for us. We are quite satisfied to read short book reviews by eruidite commentators.

    Too many people in the leadership of the U.S., I think, don't really understand why we are targets for terrorism. So often it is because our agressively-marketed and government-funded culture is banal, ugly, and immoral.

  3. That comment brings to mind the time I introduced two friends, an English professor and a rather snotty young liberal. We started talking about literature and mr. know-it-all started in on a tirade on how there's no such thing as American literature. My older friend listened quietly with a smile until asked: "by the way, what do you teach?" "American literature." Young people are comical when flustered.