Poems and Wishful Thinking

Tomorrow is Poets.org’s annual Poem in Your Pocket Day. The goal is to print copies of your favorite poem and give them out to random people you see tomorrow.

So, random people of the Blogosphere, here is the poem I shall share with you this year (last year, I just gave a list of my favorite poems, so I didn’t exactly follow the rules, but since this year seems to be the year of the annoying series of unfortunate events*, I’m going to follow the letter of the law this time–wishful thinker that I am:

“Washing the Elephant” by Barbara Ras (published in the New Yorker on March 15, 2010).

* And it’s working! As I was typing this very sentence two students came to see me and both thanked me for being such a good teacher! I’m positively glowing right now, can you tell?

The Impotence of Proofreading

Played this in class today to a group of fairly stressed students (the term is winding down, and they have a big essay due this week). 

A good day is a class of giggling adult students who couldn’t stop smiling through the peer review workshop we had after watching this:

Poem in your Pocket Day!




Be part of “Poem in Your Pocket Day” on Thursday April 30th: Carry a poem in your pocket to hand out…





The Academy of American Poets has a webpage with links to poems to place in your pocket. 

Here’s an odd mix of my favorites (from various websites):

·         If the World Was Crazy/Shel Silverstein

·         What Do Women Want/Kim Addonizio

·         Somewhere I have never travelled, gladly beyond/e.e. cummings

·         Zero/George Bilgere

·         In Praise of Joe/Marge Piercy

·         Linguini and Lovin’/Diane Lockward

·         Living in Sin/Adrienne Rich

·         Homage to My Hips/Lucille Clifton

·         Today/Billy Collins

·         My Methodist Grandmother Said/Mary Mackey

·         A Girl in Milwaukee and a Girl in Brooklyn/Matt Cook

in Just

[with apologies to e.e. cummings]


in Just
finals week      when the campus is snow-
luscious the stressed out students

cry and heave     far     and    wee

and tiffanyandryan come
straggling into my office with
deadgrandmother and lostthumbdrive stories and it’s
finals week

when the campus is drunk-wonderful (on thoughts of spring break)

the joy-less
professor down the hall drones at me
far    and  wee
and brittanyandchase come stoned to the final

from snowboardingandpartying and

joy-less droning

professordownthehall  whines, yet again,
“Can I have a minute of your time, Annie Em?”



Updates: Honors Boys and Girls, Inaugural Poem

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: