Tuesday, November 30, 2004

poetry reading

My English class begins at 8:30 in the morning. Luckily for me, my room-mate Michelle also has a class at this time, and she owns a car, so this has meant no early-morning walks, but that will soon change (doesn't everything?) when next semester comes. Michelle will be done school, but I will continue to have English at that time. I'm looking at it positively, that walking in a frigid Fredericton morning twice a week will be good for building character. Or something like that.

So most mornings--actually, all of them--everyone's half asleep, some people turn up in pajamas, and about 2/3 of the class is chowing down on a Tim Horton's muffin and following it with a coffee. This still doesn't do much for class participation--Professor Trevor Sawler is often seen gazing at us after asking a question much the way a farmer looks at a docile herd of sheep, quietly bleating to themselves, snuggling into their wool.

This morning he handed us a thick photo-copied assortment of pages--poems. Modern poems, A.E. Housman, Yeats, Wallace Stevens. He is getting us ready for the exam (on the 9th of December). So, even though most of the class was being dragged through them by the scuff of their coffee-goaded brains, we plowed into the poems.

Poetry in the morning wakes me up. And the tea I had at breakfast began to kick in. Housman spoke about poisoning oneself in small doses with the reality of the world to better stand the big tragedies, ("But take it: if the smack is sour/The better for the embittered hour") and Yeats had a beauty, a dulcet gem about an old woman. (When You Are Old.) In "Sailing to Byzantium", he's 'a tattered coat upon a stick', and asks the gods to 'consume my heart away'. That we get to feast our eyes on such jewels of words at that early hour! And talk about the themes, the rhymes, the intent of the writer. It is a miracle, when I think of the countless millions starving and the others toiling at work they don't love. The sun shines down on Fredericton and makes the white tower of Town Hall glow. And I love the scanning, the fit of each word with its neighbour, the way they form compact, refined packages of meaning, of story, of scenes that fill the brain.

I wish for my life to be a string of poems--some meaningful, some little more than limerick. I wish for my life to be understood and yet cryptic, the way a poem is. I wish to be both read and forgotten.

Whatever that means.

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