The Daily…ish

Poetry and Miscellany

  • Poem

    Men say they know many things;
    But lo! they have taken wings—
    The arts and sciences,
    And a thousand appliances;
    The wind that blows
    Is all that any body knows.

    ~ Henry David Thoreau

    (in context)

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“Great Poetry” or Something Like It

Posted by Matthew on March 7, 2007

A friend emailed me a list of some poems he had just taught to an AP English class. I will say I was slightly surprised by the selections:

Song, by Christina Rossetti
Mother to Son, by Langston Hughes
Snowbanks North of the House, by Robert Bly
Theme for English B, by Langston Hughes
XXVI, by A. E. Housman (from A Shropshire Lad)
If I profane with my unworthiest hand, byWilliam Shakespeare (sonnet from Romeo and Juliet)
Ego Tripping, by Nikki Giovanni
My Papa’s Waltz, by Theodore Roethke
next to of course god america i, by E. E. Cummings

Now, don’t get me wrong, there’s some good poeming going on there. Still, I wondered: where’s the T. S. Eliot? William Carlos Williams? Where’s Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird? Why are there two Hughes poems? I’m not a teacher, obviously, but I guess I just don’t get it. Good poems these are, but 9 of the best ever written? Methinks not so much.

As an aside, playing off the children’s theme of late, why isn’t children’s poetry taken more seriously in schools? No, it’s not as “academic”, but if Shel Silverstein’s poems speak to generations of children in a meaningful way, doesn’t that make it just as important, not only poetically, but socially, as Prufrock and its ilk? Maybe not, what do I know? It’s still something to think about.

Poem: XXVI, from A Shropshire Lad, by A. E. Housman
Thoreau: March 7, 1852


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