Sunday, September 7, 2008

Dear Landlord

There are few poems that make me what to laugh out loud, that fully place me in the world of the speaker; this is one of those poems.

by Hattie Gossett

it is raining in my apartment! yes, thats right. raining.

the water is falling freely in the living room, in the hallway, and
in the bathroom.

i have had many promises from you and the super that the holes
in my ceilings would be fixed. but somehow the promises have not
been kept, and so now it is raining in my apartment. (perhaps its
your empty promises and not raindrops that are falling?)

i would like to pay my rent. especially since i owe so much. i have
even purchased money orders and made them out to your corpo-
ration. but to tell you the honest truth, there is something inside
me that just wont let me mail these money orders to you as long
as it continues raining in my apartment.

so i am sending you these xerox copies of the money orders instead.
(see enclosed documents marked exhibit a, exhibit b, etc.) as soon
as the holes have been repaired and it stops raining in my apart-
ment, i will be more than happy to mail the original money orders
to you.

as ever,

tenant 777#6k

Everything about this poem works. From the ironic humor to the lack of punctuation to the formatting of the letter, everything is perfect. Hattie Gossett has a series of poems along this vein, and each one is better than the next.

I’ve always wanted to try to teach my students about the joy of the “found” poem, but I’m always afraid that they will laugh it off and say that it’s just nonsense. As I’m typing now, I’m thinking that this might be the perfect way to introduce that concept.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


Yeah, I don’t have much to say for this poem. It sort of speaks for itself.

by Timothy Murphy
Had I known, only known
when I lived so near,
I'd have gone, gladly gone
foregoing my fear
of the wholly grown
and the nearly great.
But I learned alone,
so I learned too late.

I don’t have time to post any comments. I have to go call my grandparents. I’ve been so lax.

But I do have to point out that this is one of the rarest of poems, one that rhymes but is still more dire in tone.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Did I Miss Anything?

I’m pretty sure that ever teacher out there has read this poem already, but still, with the first day of school finally upon us I feel compelled to post it anyway.

by Tom Wayman

Nothing. When we realized you weren’t here
we sat with our hands folded on our desks
in silence, for the full two hours

Everything. I gave an exam worth
40 percent of the grade for this term
and assigned some reading due today
on which I’m about to hand out a quiz
worth 50 percent

Nothing. None of the content of this course
has value or meaning
Take as many days off as you like:
any activities we undertake as a class
I assure you will not matter either to you or me
and are without purpose

Everything. A few minutes after we began last time
a shaft of light suddenly descended and an angel
or other heavenly being appeared
and revealed to us what each woman or man must do
to attain divine wisdom in this life and
the hereafter
This is the last time the class will meet
before we disperse to bring the good news to all people
on earth.

Nothing. When you are not present
how could something significant occur?

Everything. Contained in this classroom
is a microcosm of human experience
assembled for you to query and examine and ponder
This is not the only place such an opportunity has been
but it was one place

And you weren’t here

I know that when I was a student, both in grade school and in college, I must have asked this question to every teacher and professor I ever had. It was innocent enough, I’m sure, and I never meant to offend. But now that I’m a teacher, there is no more annoying and disrespectful question out there (except maybe “can I go to the bathroom” when I’m in the middle of what I thought was an insightful and interesting lesson). Many times have I responded in a sarcastic manner, saying something like, “no, we sat around and discussed our varying degrees of sadness over your absence.” This poem is a much better response.

There are some days when it feels like class has gone so well and the kids are so interested that I really have opened up the secrets of the universe to them. And on those days (which are few and far between, of course) this poem rings so true. The next day is never as effective, despite how much I may try to emulate what worked so well the day before. So when, on that next day, a student asks this question, it is doubly hurtful. What am I supposed to say? “Yeah, you missed a good class, but I know that you’re really just asking if anything is due or any new assignments were given, and since the answer to that is ‘no,’ you’re going to think you didn’t miss anything.” And if I just give in and say “no, you didn’t miss anything,” I’m just giving in and accepting the mindset that every day isn’t important.

So the moral of the story? Rephrase the question! Don’t ask if you missed anything; ask what you missed and what needs to be made up. To all those teachers and professors that I wronged over the years, I truly am sorry. I feel your pain.