Monday, March 9, 2009

Whom the Students Like: Poets

(image: ice cream fit for an emperor)

So I gave a test in the Introduction to Poetry Writing Class. I suppose it's unusual to give tests in creative-writing course, but there are other good reasons to do so besides the fact that it goes against the grain. We use a textbook [this time it's Kevin Clark's The Mind's Eye, which includes a lot of contemporary poetry] and the Norton Anthology of Poetry, and we do a fairly sustantial unit on prosody and traditional verse-forms, so although of course much of our time is spent on the students' poetry, we also read a fair amount.

On the test, I included a question about a favorite poem of theirs we've read so far--either in the Norton or in Clark's book. Shakespeare may be the earliest author I assign, although at some point, I usually discuss the English ballad tradition briefly as well as Anglo-Saxon poetry and how (for example) it influenced Hopkins.

Anway, here are the students' answers:

William Butler Yeats, "The Second Coming"

Ezra Pound, "In a Station of the Metro"

Robert Frost, "The Road Not Taken" [we spend some time discussing the ways in which the text of the poem doesn't "say" what people now assume it says] [2 votes]

Langston Hughes, "The Negro Speaks of Rivers" [2 votes]

Countee Cullen, "Yet Do I Marvel"

Norman Dubie, "Poem" (about a child burying a hairless doll)

Barbara Hamby, "Vex Me"

Wallace Stevens, "The Emperor of Ice Cream" [3 votes]

John Donne, "The Flea"

Theodore Roethke, "The Waking" [2 votes]

Wilfred Owen, "Dulce Et Decorum Est" [2 votes]

T.S. Eliot, "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" [3 votes]

I was surprised by the fact that both Stevens and Eliot received multiple votes--Stevens, especially, because I had assumed the students had found "The Emperor of Ice Cream" to be too perplexing, although I try to show that it's really not as perplexing as all that (I assumed I'd come close to failing in this regard). We will have read more women poets by the time the second test comes around, but even so I was surprised poems by Hannah Stein and Ruth Stone (for instance) didn't get a vote. On the other hand, this is a vote only for one poem.
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