Teaching: a poem

I was building up to a post on the strange novel I’ve just read: Kobo Abe’s The Woman in the Dunes. But having a heavy cold and even heavier sense of sorrow for myself, I thought I’d try something I’ve not done before: post a poem. I’ve done flash fiction before, but never a poem. This is from a notebook entry I’d dated 8 Oct. 2011. It’s called ‘I’d been teaching.’

I’d been teaching

grammar for five weeks

so I thought I’d change the scheme –

70 new words in Collins 11:

How and why they’re coined: portmanteaus, blends,

affixes, taboo terms. I thought

It was pretty interesting. Then,

sprawled across her desk, a goth, bored,

asked: Are we meant to be doing this?

And that was one of her pink days.

Makes a change from writing about other people’s books. I no longer teach grammar, so feel ready to share the experience in that piece.

12 thoughts on “Teaching: a poem

  1. Too funny!

    I hope you feel better soon. Colds are miserable. : (

    She didn’t appreciate having a dedicated teacher that wanted to make things fun, did she? But who knows, maybe at some point down the line, she’ll remember Mr. Lavery and be spurred to walk into a bookstore.

    There is nothing “edgier” and more death-obsessed (in the aesthetic sense) than a 16-year-old Goth girl. Unfortunately, once you leave 40 or 50 behind, the actual decay of your carcass makes the concept of dressing up as Goth a lot less appealing!

  2. Sorry I didn’t respond more to the structure of your poem. I am not enough of an adept that I can use the proper, critical terms, but I loved the flow, and it had a spiffy little epiphany at the end, as well as a very Tredynasian selection of verbiage, which is one of its most lovely traits.

    There is NO such thing as knowing too many words or being “overeducated” in my humble opinion!

    Wishing you whisky toddies, soft Kleenex, and indulgently multiplied nappings.

  3. [FINAL] Love the interchangeable title and the first line…cool technique…will make a note of it. I am continuing to collect bits and pieces of “New York City facets” to someday fit together into something more ambitious than a single poem.

    New York City is so multitudinous and massive that it deserves many different glimpses and approaches. It always sucks me in for a couple of days, overwhelms me in its mechanism, and spits me out again to return on the railroad to Boston or Washington, utterly spent and eating horrible cheeseburgers from the concession stand.

    • Thanks for the comments, Maureen. It’s just a cold, and I no longer work on Fridays, so I’ve managed a few naps. Glad you liked the first line/title technique; stole that from somewhere, can’t recall where – maybe Frank O’Hara…also a NYC person

    • What a coincidence, Liz. It was part of the A Level Eng Lang course I was teaching back then to include a sizeable proportion of grammatical knowledge – goodness knows why. I always found it a bit arid, so could sympathise with the bored students. I’m an admirer of the universal applicability of their stock response to such things: ‘whatever’…Doesn’t mean a sound knowledge of grammar isn’t important for anyone who deals with words, though (my opinion, of course, not all would agree). One of my colleagues, a literature specialist who I converted to teach on this more linguistic course, once said of tasks like your kind of magazine language analysis, ‘yes, but what’s the point?’ It’s not always easy to answer.

        • I agree; I think my colleague was simply doing what many lit specialists tend to do: dismiss linguistic analysis as beneath their dignity, messing about, not ‘proper analysis’, etc. Surely language in all its forms, wherever it’s used, is fascinating and worthy of study. I noticed on our intranet at work yesterday after clicking on a link to a document, there were two tabs at the top, one marked ‘close document’, the other, ’embiggen’. Embiggen! You couldn’t make it up…

          • I need to send the “embiggen” reference to our Communications Director. Our firm is “combining” (not really merging, just two under a Board) with a UK law firm named Bond Dickinson. They started out in Newcastle, but now are all over, and I think they may have worked with Ardman Animation (“Shaun The Sheep”/”Wallace and Gromit”) in Bristol.

          • What’s wrong with ‘maximise’ (in the computer screen context). I suppose in the corporate world such expressions as ‘outsource’ or ‘downsize’ get used in circumstances like yours.

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