Sunday, June 23, 2013

Of Moonlight and Dead Poets

I sat out on the steps of the deck late last night, watching the clouds scud across the face of the almost full moon, the super moon. Most of the fireflies had already turned in for the night, there were few sounds besides the occasional swoosh of a car the next street over.

Watching the clouds brought to mind Robert Frost's poem, "The Death Of The Hired Man." Mary urges her husband to go talk to the hired man, adding:

"I’ll sit and see if that small sailing cloud
Will hit or miss the moon.”
It hit the moon.
Then there were three there, making a dim row,        
The moon, the little silver cloud, and she.

Those lines chased through my head as I watched the sky. Frost has been dead 50 years this year. He has been gone long enough that when a group of teens and young adults in 2008 famously vandalized the Vermont farmhouse where he spent his summers and falls in his later years, a number of them had no clue who Robert Frost was.

As I sat there longer, I thought of Sylvia Plath, dead also 50 years this year, of T. S. Eliot, whose death was 48 years ago. Dead poets all.

Anymore, the teaching of poetry in the state approved curriculum (the Common Core Standards) seems a hit or miss proposition. Poetry has been thrown into the chopping bowl with the other literary forms and all of it seems to have been diced, sliced, tossed, and then pressed into a suitable grid that meets the Common Core benchmarks. Poetry for the sheer sake of poetry seems to have slipped out the door. I wonder whether if I passed around a poem by Robert Frost in the juvenile class I teach any of them would recognize the name.

Warren joined me on the deck and asked me what I was doing, which I interpreted as what are you thinking? I tried to connect the dots from the moon to the poem to Frost to Plath and Eliot to the vandalism to the teaching of poetry. Somewhere between the moon and the farmhouse, I lost him. (Remember, this is the man who famously speculated where Proof Rock was located.) The moon was bright enough that I could see the bafflement on his face as to why his wife was yet again going down some rabbit hole of poetry as an answer to a perfectly simple question.

It turns out he was thinking of some simple domestic chore to complete before bedtime. We both laughed at the incongruity of our thoughts, then went in, leaving the moonlight behind.

1 comment:

see you there! said...

You mention some of my favorite poets here. I sometimes enjoy sitting outside at night and moon gazing.