Tuesday, April 15, 2008

confessions of a recovering English major

With one painfully boring exception, I loved my English classes in college. I majored in History because I knew I could do it well; I majored in English because it meant I got credits for reading novels and poetry. Hey, it seemed a good idea at the time, even if it meant that I wrote about five bazillion papers in four years. For this I am still making student loan payments.

It also means that when I listened to "Prairie Home Companion" spoof English majors on Sunday, I instinctively started to think about post-structuralism and its relationship to gender identity and deconstructionism.

Anyway, this is apparently National Poetry Month or some such because people keep sending me poems. These are normal, rational-seeming folks, and it is nice to see what gets sent my way... certainly a break from the usual dross of life.

I'm noticing something, though - almost all of the poems (upwards of 20) are old chestnuts. There's nothing wrong with "Two roads diverged in yellow wood/ and sorry I could not travel both" it's just that even as a freshman in college I was sick of it. Wordsworth's poem about daffodils is terrfic, but again, it's so over-used and repeated.

Now. I'm not arguing that we should all memorize "The Man From Snowy River" (up the Australians!) or that "Dulce et Decorum Est" doesn't make me cry (it does) but Frost and Owen and Dickinson and their kin did write other pieces.

P.S. There's a bumper sticker that says, "If You can read this thank a music teacher." (Then there's a few bars of Beethoven.) Official thanks to the teacher who first walked me through Paradise Lost.


Jeanne said...

Is Auden's Musee des Beaux Arts a familiar poem to many people? I don't have a good sense of what others are familiar with, in terms of poetry. If it's in the Norton Anthology, I tend to assume it's well known.

Was I the first to walk you through PL?

lemming said...

Interesting question - no Auden yet, but the month is only half over. I do wonder sometimes how much of the Norton Anthologies get read in their entirety. We used the N Modern poetry in my 12th grade English class, but read barely a third. naturally it was the least interesting third...

re: PL - yes that was you!!!! Someday I'll show you all of the notes.

Foxy said...

This post reminds me of my favorite Seth MacFarlane (creator of Family Guy) quote...he said the following in a speech to the graduating class of Harvard.

I respect the classics. And I am reminded of the words of my favorite poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow who said "It's gonna tempt your tummy, with the taste of nuts and honey. It's a honey of an oh, its a honey nut cheerio."