Thursday, January 29, 2009

Here's that "found poem" I mentioned

When cannons are used to scare birds

the noise can be disturbing.
We apologize
but the measure is necessary
this evening.

--Facilities and Maintenance, University of North Texas

Monday, January 26, 2009


A meditation on poetry . . .

In my experience, students either love it or hate it.

A former student of mine once described poetry as “Satan disguised as text arranged strategically on a page." Fortunately, that was before taking this course, but I'm not sure he felt much better about poetry afterward.

In her 1921 poem titled "Poetry" Marianne Moore wrote, "I, too, dislike it: there are things that are important beyond all this fiddle. / Reading it, however, with a perfect contempt for it, one discovers in it after all, a place for the genuine." I like this, but what on earth does it mean--"a place for the genuine"?

I "found" a poem once. It arrived in an e-mail from the University's facilities and maintenance. I'll post it here once I "find" it again.

William Carlos Williams's poem, "This is Just to Say" is an example of a kind of "found" poem:

This is Just to Say

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold


Williams's poems raise the all-important question, "What is poetry?"

Here's a poem by Billy Collins that raises another question, "Why teach it, why write about it?"

Introduction to Poetry
Billy Collins

I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem's room
and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to water-ski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author's name on the shore.

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.