Monday, June 13, 2005

Where to take this?

Just sent this, in response to an email; it seemed right to post it here as well:

You're probably right that the word isn't the problem--that any substitute for "spiritual" will have its own baggage, and be subject to the same endless debates. Your last point, though, about poems keeping things a little unsettled, a little open, in the face of a culture (broad and local, pedagogical, test-driven, etc.) that wants things to be cut-and-dried, is where I'd like to head with this discussion, since it hits on the practical problem that we teachers face as we frame our discussions of the art.

How to teach the power, the wonder, the pleasure of that sort of openness without lapsing into the cliches my students spout about how "the poem means whatever anyone says it means, so my interpretation is just as valid as yours, and none of them matter very much, do they?" How to sort out mysteries in the poem from mere confusions in the reader? Those are the questions I face, and want to take up next.
More on which tomorrow. Time to pick up the kids, clean the house, and cook for company.

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