Friday, April 25, 2014

Day 25 ... NaPoWriMo / Poem-a-Day 2014


Day 25. Now we're 5/6 of the way through National Poetry Month. It's been a nice run, don't you think? I'm enjoying writing a poem a day, even though it's been tough going a couple-three times. Hang in there, everyone!

"For today’s prompt, write a 'last straw' poem," Robert Lee Brewer suggests. "Everyone encounters situations in which they decide they’re not going to take it anymore . . . Write about the moment, the aftermath, or take an unexpected path to your poem" (Poetic Asides).

Maureen Thorson begins today: "Anaphora is a literary term for the practice of repeating certain words or phrases at the beginning of multiple clauses or, in the case of a poem, multiple lines." You might recall that in his famous speech, Martin Luther King Jr. begins several sentences with "I have a dream" and also "Let freedom ring" — memorable and powerful. Anyway, Maureen continues, "I challenge you to write a poem that uses anaphora. Find a phrase, and stick with it — learn how far it can go" (NaPoWriMo).

A wonderful recent example of anaphora is in my favorite song by The Police: "Every breath you take / Every move you make / Every bond you break / Every step you take / I'll be watching you." Love that because it's so cleverly creepy. And nicely apropos today because it also seems to be a "last straw" situation.

Okay, here we go. Mashing up both prompts.

Spring

I can't take it anymore,
cven though it's just started.

I can't take it anymore.
This morning I'm already stuffed up.

I can't take it anymore,
even if snowdrops and hyacinths are beautiful.

I can't take it anymore,
even if 30% of people are similarly affected.

I can't take it anymore,
even if there's no hay and there's no fever.

I can't take it anymore,
even if it's so happily sunshiny outdoors.

I can't take it anymore,
even if it happens again and again, every year.

I can't take it anymore,
even if everyone else just loves the nice days.

I can't take it anymore.
I can't take it anymore.

Alright, alright. I'll take it.
I'll just have to get shots. And try
to hold my breath until winter comes.

—Draft by Vince Gotera    [Do not copy or quote . . . thanks.]

I love light verse — don't you?

Here's an image of spring that Kathy found for me. To her this is extraordinarily beautiful. To me, well, I shudder. I like a flower as much as the next guy, but when they gang up like this, all I can think of is the allergic attack they bring on. I'd rather have the dentist drill. Shudder. Brrr. Sorry, Kathy. But thanks so much for finding such a perfect photo.


Okay, on to Alan. Or, to my dear Holmes, as Dr. Watson used to say.     I've wanted to make that joke all month!


Dr. Holmes tells us, "I think that I have covered both the 'last straw' and the anaphora prompts. Given that it is April, some of my 'last straw' feelings have to do with students who have neglected themselves all semester and who, nonetheless, believe that somehow they can wrangle a satisfactory grade out of weeks of neglect. Perhaps one of the first requirements for passing an English class should be the ability to read and comprehend the course policy statement. Now, back to grading . . ."

Exodus 20

And I wrote these words, plain as day, on your policy statement:

“I earned my doctorate in 1990, so it is appropriate for you to call me ‘Doctor.’ I became a member of the professorial faculty here in 1996, so it is also appropriate for you to call me ‘Professor.’ Know me by those titles and by my work.

“You shall go to no other authority when I have offered you explicit directions for completing class assignments. I do not care about the opinions of your roommate, your resident assistant, your parents, your siblings, your favorite English teacher from high school, your local newspaper editor who published your first poem, your pastor, or your significant other.

“You shall not offer an interpretation of text founded solely on the abstractions you associate with random thought occurring to you during your exposure to the texts. You shall not resort to flights of imaginative fantasy, to contortions of language, and to allusions to transiently relevant pop culture elements when I require you to develop literary analysis of our considered texts, for in doing so you place yourself before the texts and thereby neglect your assignments. I am a jealous steward of literature, eager to accept those interested and challenged by my discipline, impatient and scarcely tolerant of triflers, dilettantes, and grade-grubbers.

“You shall not mispronounce my name, even should you choose to curse it; I harbor no resentment for the vilification, but I hold in contempt those who neglect to curse well.

“Remember that a university class requires time outside of the classroom for preparation, including reading, contemplation of the reading, and writing. Not all of the answers occur inside the classroom, and not all of the answers occur inside the texts. Some of those answers have to occur in your mind, away from any distractions that may come between you and your understanding.

“Honor your father and mother by keeping them out of any conversations we may have about your classroom performance.

“You shall not offer repeated specious interpretation of a text just because you like your brainfart.

“You shall not give me an essay that you have already submitted to some other instructor for some other class.

“You shall not plagiarize.

“You shall not misrepresent what one of my colleagues has said about a text we teach in common.

“You shall not covet a classmate’s success in this class; you shall not attempt to exploit our class as a means to find a date; you shall not belittle a classmate because that person does not meet your provincial notions of propriety.”

When the students saw me standing at the lectern with the stack of essays I was about to return after having spent countless hours evaluating how well they have expressed their understanding of the texts, some trembled in fear, realizing that they had miscalculated how committed I am to the Word, and they said, “Who among us can pass this course?”

I said to the students, “Do not be afraid. I have come to prepare you, so that the appreciation of literature will be with you to keep you from despair.”

The students remained at their desks, while I resumed the next reading where God is.

—Draft by Thomas Alan Holmes     [Do not copy or quote . . . thanks.]

Amen to that, Professor/Doctor Holmes. I think you should actually use this in your future syllabi. Just to make sure there are no misunderstandings, since it is, as the text says, "plain as day." This is light and heavy verse. Just the right light touch and heavy-handedness of tone.

Lecturer at Syracuse University

I must confess that, as a student, I had bent and even broken some — perhaps more than some — of these commandments. But I have since seen the error of my ways, and as a professor/doctor myself only bend and break them when no witnesses are present.  


Won't you comment, please, friends? To make a comment, look for a blue link below that says Post a comment and click it once. If you don't see that, look in the red line that starts Posted by Vince, then find the word comments and click it once.

Ingat, everyone.  


POEM-A-DAY 2014 • Pick a day in April: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30


5 comments:

Bruce Niedt said...

Hey, Vince! I guess you haven't had a chance to post for the 26th yet, but I just wanted to thank you for suggesting the curtal sonnet for NaPoWriMo today. I wrote my first one ever, and I think it came out half-decent. Visit my blog if you would like to read it.

Bruce Niedt said...

P.S.: Liked your Day 25 poem - the anaphora works nicely here. An appropriate commentary on this season's "Aller-geddon" (yes, someone actually coined that one).

Thomas Alan Holmes said...

The tone on this poem has been of concern to me--I hoped for a balance, but I am, after all, appropriating a revered text. Part of my problem was deciding correlations between the sins and the types of errors that students would make. What, for example, is the writing student's equivalent of adultery? If someone were to line up the (Septuagint tradition) Ten Commandments with the items in my poem, he/she would see that I placed the gravest student wrongdoing, plagiarism, with the "shall not kill" commandment.

Vince Gotera said...

Bruce, thanks a lot. Aller-geddon. Ha ha ha. I'll come look at your curtal sonnet.

Vince Gotera said...

It had occurred to me while reading your poem that there might be such a correlation, but I didn't cross-reference. I'm glad you thought so much about it. Thanks.

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