Monday, March 27, 2006

Notes Between Grades

Grading The Stack: still another 30-something papers, etc., to read.

Nothing galls me so much as a bad student essay. It seems so ungrateful: "After all the work I did, this is what you give me?" Nothing pleases me so much as an effortless "A."


Donne brings out the best in my students. I hope this isn't simply becaused they've studied him elsewhere, before. The paper I'm reading now, on "The Flea," does better work with prosody than any essay I've seen all quarter, and I'm irrationally thrilled: Someone gets it! Or maybe it's more the thrill of finding someone I can talk to about such matters, maybe in a future seminar.

The women, especially, get him--they love how he responds to a silent female interlocutor, turn by turn--indeed, they've taught me to emphasize that element in his poems. I love to acknowledge such debts, and wish I heard them more often from colleagues.


"Great work on rhythm here!" How rare is that, even among the professoriat? Yet this same student lards the word "somewhat" into every page: "the diction and the rhythm of this section are somewhat of a synthesis of the two previous stanzas." How can a student with an ear for Donne's rhythms care so little about his own prose?


Procrastinated just now by surfing to some favorite blogs & following their leads. Emily Lloyd links to an interesting manifesto, of sorts, by an Asian American poet I hadn't read before: Cathy Park Hong. Mark led me somehow to Bemsha Swing--I think I just followed his link--and I spent some happy time reading posts on Kenneth Koch (an old favorite) and the goals of criticism... Then noticed that SSW isn't on his list of links. Sniff! Not that I link to many blogs here, and not that I actually want to join many blog-to-blog conversations. Too damned busy. Oh, right, with grading. Back to The Stack.


Hey, this one actually uses "his manhood" as a euphemism! I love it--my romance reading (circa 1972) and my poetry teaching suddenly coincide. The poem, by the way, says "his flesh" and "this sweet root," but not the M-word.

Even this paper, though, makes some fine moves with sound. And looks up a verb ("echo") to find its etymology, & weaves the myth back into the poem. Well done!

Mixed papers are hard to grade. I just want them to be revised, endlessly revised, until they are perfect, so that my job will be easier.


I usually let students work on only one paper over the course of a quarter in "Reading Poetry." They have to revise it multiple times, so that by the end of the quarter, they've all had the experience of writing one absolutely solid explication, and can therefore do it again. Why on earth did I not do that this time?

Lunch. Early. Yes.

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