Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Purple Poetry and Stones Under Rushing Water

Yesterday my Intro to Lit classes started studying poetry, and I (of course) made a very snazzy powerpoint to use for my introductory lecture.  I always have to be honest with my usually-terrified-of-poetry students and tell them that I never even LIKED poetry until I was in my early twenties.  I feel like this confession usually gets a good laugh, considering that it comes from their English professor.  The poems I was always asked to read were so old and difficult to relate to... and then, one day, I discovered this poem by Jenny Joseph:

With a red hat which doesn't go, and doesn't suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we've no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I'm tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick the flowers in other people's gardens
And learn to spit

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.


Poetry, I explain to my students, can be awesome. The secret is finding poems whose writers express an emotion that you recognize.

At the end of the snazzy powerpoint, I like to play several contemporary songs that demonstrate the power of a strong image -- what a poet/songwriter can express by using figurative language instead of logical usage. 

One of my favorites is this beautiful acoustic version of "Stones Under Rushing Water" by Needtobreathe.  I think it demonstrates EXACTLY how an image (stones under rushing water) can represent a powerful emotion.

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