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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I Stand Bemused

Posted by Matthew on March 7, 2007

A comment from Josh, regarding the subject of one of our email conversations that also happens to have been the subject of The Daily post today:

“[G]etting kids interested in reading takes precedence over acquainting them with the canon. ”

I suppose this is the part where I eat my words, yes? As I said, I am not a teacher, and I expected more intelligent things could be said on the topic. That said, I admit a tendency to hold the canon, such as it is, in higher regard than is necessary, probably higher than deserved, given our current place in history. Of course, students are going to get into Hughes more easily than, say, The Waste Land. That much should be expected.

Here I will pause to point out that, foot-in-mouth-style, The fact that students are likely to find Theme for English B more accessible than, say, Howl, the very premise of this blog is that such is very likely worth reconsidering which should be placed “higher” on any kind of current, meaningful scale. Now, I realize of course that this is a dangerous line of reasoning to follow, but it is worth a thought or two.

As Josh points out, the satire of the graph from the beginning of Dead Poets Society and the ensuing conversation is as good a starting point as any, I suppose. Qualifications, if there can be any, will be slippery and subjective. Consensus is nearly impossible.

And so, despite the obstacles to discovery of the answer, I ask: what makes a poem great?


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