They shadow the upper right-hand corner of my desk: 40 papers from the Romance class, 40 from Reading Poetry, and a larger number than I'd like to have left from Teaching Poetry, my MA class. I feel like Childe Roland, only I built that Dark Tower, & there's no slug-horn in sight.
At which point, I get to musing: why do I have my students write so many close readings? Or, if I want them to write close readings, why do I teach them poems? Shouldn't I find an anthology of essays-on-poems for them to study, if that's what I want them to produce? Is there such a book? I know Camille Paglia has Break, Blow, Burn out now: 44 poems, each explicated, which might presumably work. On the other hand, if I haven't brought myself to read it yet, should I really make my students?
(Parenthetically, I should add that I am deeply, deeply grateful to Paglia. Her prose style plucked me out of the Slough of Cavell back in graduate school, and made me who I am today, prose-wise. Half the jokes I had to comb from my dissertation, en route to press, might have been hers. Maybe I should read this new one, too.)
But I digress. The serious points here are:
1) Teaching "Intro to Poetry" (or "Reading Poetry," or whatever your school wants to call it) may not be an intrinsically frustrating experience--it hasn't always been for me--but
2) Teaching from a huge, overwhelming, over-processed anthology like the Norton seems to depress me, and
3) I don't know what text or anthology to use next time, my 19th or 20th go-round with the class, since
4) I'm not entirely sure WHAT I want to teach my students, although I know pretty well that I don't want to teach them only close reading skills, as I did, mostly, this time.
Maybe it's time to send out a meme. If you had to teach an "Introduction to Poetry" with only, say, 20 poems, which 20 would you choose? Or, if that number is to small, make it 30-60, but no more than 60 poems, tops. (I have 20 class days, and rarely get through more than 3 poems a day.)
Help me, somebody!
Norton Anthology of Poetry: $73
Helen Vendler's Poems, Poets, Poetry: $54
Kenneth Koch's Making Your Own Days: $15
Camille Paglia, Break, Blow, Burn: $13
All of these new, with no discount, of course. Any on-line dealer has them for less.
The new Wadsworth Anthology of Poetry, about which I'll blog quite soon, goes for $57 for the shorter edition, $67 for the longer, and it comes with a nifty CD-ROM. A possibility.
To be continued...