Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Poetry and Words

We went to a Billy Collins reading last night at USC. Had I been affiliated with USC in any way, I would have felt pretty embarrassed about the event, and I would probably write him an apology letter. It seemed under-advertised and under-attended, and the introduction felt like an explanation or review of Collins' poetry delivered to an audience not expected to be familiar with his work. And the question and answer portion was abysmal.

A word of advice: don't pretend to have a question so that you can read a poem you just wrote five minutes ago on a napkin to a former poet laureate at his reading. This is not okay. Also, we are not impressed that you rhymed "you are my hero" with "Robert De Niro."

I might write Collins a note apologizing on behalf of California. Do students in other states have to be reminded not to text during poetry readings?

Seriously, though, the man was wonderfully gracious. He skillfully handled being accused of cowardice for using irony to cover up his mommy issues, and being requested to "also comment on Hip Hop Poems and The Twitter." Poor man. He looked so tired.

He has a new collection coming out next month that sounds really promising, and from the pieces he read, seems to be less depressingly focused on divorce.

Also, my tenth graders are starting poetry this week, which is excellent. Tenth graders, meet Eliot. Eliot, tenth graders. They got a VERY RAPID overview of poetic feet, meter, rhyme, etc. today, and they practiced scanning some lines. We'll start talking about content on Thurs. They'll hit Four Quartets next week, at which point their brains will be overloaded with beauty, and all shall be well, and / All manner of thing shall be well.

The result of all of the above: I've had poetry and words on the brain a lot lately. When this happens, I sometimes find words running through my head. Sometimes they are other people's words; sometimes I'm not sure if they are mine or someone else's (I know a few other people who have this problem). Today my brain was chewing on the phrase "histrionic casualty." I ran a Google search, and it doesn't seem to belong to anyone else. I'm not even sure what it would mean. I like the idea of "histrionic casualness" better (I like to think of the sort of things one might say "with a certain histrionic casualness"), but the cadence of the original is more appealing, though the meaning is more obfuscated and maybe morbid.

What is a histrionic casualty?

1. Perhaps an event so unbelievably coincidental that it seems it must have been staged (but really is coincidental)?
2. Someone with a martyr complex who dies as a result of some unfortunate tragedy?
3. Someone who is hopelessly melodramatic?

What do you think? (And does this ever happen to you?)


No comments:

Post a Comment