Tuesday, October 18, 2011

the Code, and Poetry Tuesday: Marianne Moore

There is a code among students.  You don't try to make another student look bad.  You cover for each other as much as you can.  If the professor calls on your neighbor and you know your neighbor didn't have time to finish her reading last night, you jump in with a comment.  You grouse about how far behind you are and how much studying you have to do, even if you don't.  You don't try to look extra smart or outshine the other students.  In other words, it's students vs. the professor, in a subtle, not-too-blatant kind of way.

But I'm way closer in age to my professors than I am to the other students.  In fact, I'm often older than my professors.  We can talk about our kids, college tuition, buying a house, home maintenance, raking the yard, running car pool-- all things that my professors and I have to deal with that most of the other students don't.  And this has become even more obvious as I start to have professors again.  This is my third class with my Ulysses professor, and the second with my Modern Poetry professor.  Two of the professors I had last year I had for more than one class.  They are people I profoundly respect, and also just like to sit and talk to.  They're becoming friends.

So last week I crossed over.  I'm a bit embarrassed to admit it.  My modern poetry class is an undergraduate level class that I'm taking as a graduate independent study.  I attend the class, and then meet with the professor once a week for further, more in-depth discussion.  The class is a particularly uninspired group.  On the first day of class, almost of all of them said that they were a) education majors, not english majors, and b) had to have this class in order to graduate in the spring.  They don't really care about poetry.  They don't do the reading.  They don't like to discuss.  They just want to come in, zone out through a lecture, and get their credits.  (And by the way, I suspect that these same students are very animated and involved when it's a class they're interested in, they're just not interested in poetry.)

So last week when the professor--one of my friends--was becoming increasingly frustrated with the lack of involvement from the class and asked, "So who did read the assignment?", normally I would have waited to see how many others raised their hand. But this time I blew right through the Student Code without a qualm and acknowledged that I had.  He was grateful.  I felt a bit like a heel.  But I've reached the point where I feel far more loyal to him than I do to the other students.  Funny feeling.

We've only just started Marianne Moore, so I don't have too much to say.  But here is the published version of her poem "Poetry":


I, too, dislike it.
   Reading it, however, with a perfect contempt for it,
                one discovers in
it after all, a place for the genuine.

And that's all there is to the poem.  But then you flip over to the back of the book to the footnotes (which I suppose would technically be endnotes), and it says, "Longer version:" and proceeds to a 30-line version of the poem.  Was she just being witty?  making fun of the idea of poetry?  Or was she so disgusted with the self-involved, smug attitude of some poets that she was trying to pare away every unnecessary thing?  It's hard to say.  In the longer poem, she makes a plea for poets to be "literalists of the imagination," to write "imaginary gardens with real toads in them."  By which I think she means that (for example) even if you're writing fantastic fiction with trolls and elves and dwarves, the characters and their situation still have to be real, to connect with the reader in a way that feels authentic.  There have to be real toads in the imaginary garden.  The longer version ends:

...In the meantime, if you demand on the one hand,
  the raw material of poetry in
    all its rawness and
      that which is on the other hand
         genuine, you are interested in poetry.

and there you have it.

Oh! and one last thing.  One of you who reads and doesn't like to comment came up with a name for dh.  She says that since I use Aunt BeaN because my initials are BN, he should be "DeaN" because his initials are DN.  Which is perfect.  So, I am christening my long-suffering spouse Dean.  Now you know.

1 comment:

  1. Out of order:

    DeaN = awesome!

    Friends-as-teachers are more likely to continue as part of your life than students-of-the-code are.

    I love when you do this with poetry and whatever else you are studying, helps me to comprehend, and digest it, when you do the pre-chewing. ;)