An update on the self-segregated Honors English classroom. The instructor asked the class to explain why they split up, girls crammed on one side of the room, the few boys spread out on the other. Here was the response he got:
“I asked the question about the room split and got two answers:
- boys said there was power in numbers
- girls said they were not interested in the boys
While their response is somewhat defensive (especially the girls), it’s intriguing. The boys feel overwhelmed by the number of girls in the Honors English class (more than double the number of boys), and they admit it. The girls claim that they sit together because they aren’t interested in the boys (which may confirm the instructor’s theory that these are indeed the “nerdy” boys, or at least boys that the girls feel the need to declare they have no interest in, at least in public.
Now, about the inaugural poem. I finally did see a clip, and noted that not only did NPR talk over poor Professor Alexander’s poem reading, but the crowds were also ignoring her (and yes, Jon Stewart made a joke about the power of poetry to clear a room).
Yes, her reading style is not effective, and yes, her style as well as the simplicity of the poem make it pale in comparison to the emotional affect of a Maya Angelou reading and poem. But the poem does effectively echo Obama’s speech (which it immediately followed) so thematically it works, and yes it doesn’t rhyme and it has what seems to be a clumsy rhythm, but imagine, if you can, it read by someone who can truly do justice to a West African praise song. It’s a genre that needs a different performer. The poem, read on the page, is quite powerful. I wish we can hear it again read by someone else.
Alexander was on The Colbert Report last night: Colbert (surprisingly literate) was kind to her, allowing her to shine in what seemed to be a much more comfortable professorial role.
More bloggers are coming to her defense:
- One Poet’s Notes links to others who have written about the poem, and does a beautiful job explicating the poem (reprinted there with the correct line breaks).
- A future Chronicle of Higher Education article by Randy Malamud, “Walking Forward in the Poet’s Light”, also praises the praise song (the article may be behind a firewall, alas–it will be published in the Feb 6, 2009 issue).
- And Chronicle blogger Gina Barreca asks “What Did You Think About the Inaugural Poem?” : as of tonight, 58 folks have replied.