Thursday, June 16, 2005

The Best Student Poem...

I should be irritated with this, but it truly made me laugh. What guts this girl has - and ironically I think it shows some creativity.

This is a haiku.
I made it for English class.
Just so I could pass.


pjd said...

Personally, I think it's brilliant. The simplicity of the message resonates on more than one level. The adherence to the form (if not exactly the spirit of incorporation images of nature) shows on the surface that the student did just enough to pass, but not much more. It is interesting, also, that she chose the word "made" when many students might have simply gone with "wrote", a more straightforward and less meaningful word in this context. She appears to have more pride in her work than simply having written words; she "made" the haiku, which implies creativity, forethought, and the act of creation.

Also, the author shows intelligence in writing "for English class" rather than "for my teacher," which also fits the structure. By so doing, she depersonalizes it and allows the teacher the space not to be offended or irritated. After all, English teachers were English students once and can relate when it is depersonalized thus.

Furthermore, the superb double meaning of the word "Just" in the last line rings. She made the haiku just to pass (for the sole purpose of passing), but also because of the depth and simplicity of this work, a passing grade would be a just result.

Finally, the rhyme of "class" and "pass" should not be underestimated for its subtle yet pleasing impact on the subconscious of the reader. Coupled with the prominent "I" sound in each line (HAIku, I, I), varied from the end of the line to the beginning to the middle, shows that the author was both conflicted about the work (penduluming the "I" sound and finally coming to a serene peace with the work by putting herself squarely in the middle of the final line) and thrilled by the irony and self-contradiction of the poem's very existence.

One postscript note: It is possible that the selection of the "ass" words for the final couplet rhyme are to mean that she is, in the process of creating such a rich piece of art, making an ass of the teacher, and of those who try to analyze the art too deeply.

I am in awe of the mastery of the haiku abilities of this student.

bluesugarpoet said...

Well, I’m not sure if she was calling me an ass or not, but I guess you just did PJD. Hmmm…I won’t deny that I’ve been an ass before, and I will probably be an ass in the future. And I have an ass – which my husband seems to like.

The irritation actually wasn’t with the poem itself at all – I loved the poem for a few of the reasons you’ve noted; mostly I loved the poem because I like it when students think out of the box. Before I even read the poem, though, quite a few of the assignments submitted by this student (all of which she turned in on the last day) read: “I didn’t have time to do this, so I guess I’ll just take a 0.” That puts me in a precarious position since this was an online class, and I’m thinking to myself, “Shoot – if she does that with too many assignments, then she won’t be able to earn any credit for this class.”

So my first reaction when I read the poem was, “This was an effort of someone who is rushing to get this done.” But my exact response was, “I loved your poems - even the Haiku! Thanks for sharing those with me. You are definitely a poet.”

Anyway, the actual purpose of the assignment was for students to attempt to write different types of poems – which she did. It wasn’t my intention to analyze a student’s fledgling (or accomplished) attempts at poetry. And I didn’t.

In fact, I like to think that rather than teaching students to dissect a work, I teach my students to instead be observant (at least the best I can anyway – I work for a school district that enforces a “Formalist” approach to literature, while I would prefer to take a “New Historicism” approach). If we look at the text, a writer will let us know what he or she wants us to know about a particular subject. Nothing is really “hidden.”

Although, writers will sometimes speak from their sub-conscious. An example of that is when Jack London wrote the novel, Martin Eden. He insisted that it wasn’t autobiographical, even though many of the situations in the novel really happened to London - and the main character was a die-hard Socialist. Maybe London’s intent wasn’t to write an autobiographical novel, but the fact is that the main character’s endeavors to be published writer (and to become an active member of the Socialist party) mirrored London’s endeavors exactly.

Mostly, I think we scream at people what we want them to know whether we think we are being blatant or subtle about it.

I realize that many English teachers teach in a way that presupposes, “I have the answers here, and if you look hard enough you will be enlightened too.” However, like a scientist, I prefer to make observations about literature the best I can with what I know and with what is provided in the text.

Finally, I realize that poetry is a personal endeavor, and I’ve never once in my entire career told a student regarding their poetic efforts, “That’s not good.” Is there a “good” or “bad” poem?

But I’m sure I’ve over-analyzed a poem or two by a professional poet just for fun.

pjd said...

Is there such a thing as a "good" or "bad" poem? I know I've written a few real stinkers (so I have proof positive that "bad" poems exist), and I think I've written a few good ones, but it's hard to call that proof that "good" poems exist. Maybe they're all just various hues of the color "bad".

bluesugarpoet said...

lol! Now there is some Post-Modern thinking I can really identify with - "shades" of bad.

Mimi said...

She's a poet and doesn't know it.

that's the exact right response to her, I think. lol.