Thursday, September 10, 2015

Poetry for Professionals #1

[On Angela Palm's lyric essay in the 15.4 issue of The Diagram, post originally appeared on Linkedin]

Since graduating from my MFA program, leaving behind a reassuring ecosystem in which everyone cared deeply about authors and their craft, and choosing something other than itinerant-poet-lecturer as a profession, I've come across many people who either bemoan the lack of good poetry in the world, or worse, professionals who can't name a single poet or poem they like, and really don't see the point of it.  
This is sad.  First, if anything we are in a golden age of poetry.  Partly due to the rise of creative writing classes in higher education, and the work of places like 826 National to promote the value of both good academic and creative writing, while I've yet to conduct the definitive survey, I'm certain that more people are writing poems and aspiring to write poetry that ever before.  The internet has also provided an amazing avenue for the discussion, publishing, and promotion of poetry.  There are also more literary journals publishing writing worth reading than every-- more than one could reasonably read, unless reading poetry is your profession. And poetry has expanded: it no longer has to rhyme! In fact, it can appear similar to an essay.  Really, there's no accounting for form; still, whatever it's shape, a good poem still functions to illuminate our experience like no other art.  And in few aspects of our lives do we need more illumination than professionally.  
Whether it's a poem that brightens our day by turning our thoughts away from TPS reports, or gives us a new, possibly hilarious way of looking at the work we do, poems and short lyrical writing can surprise, delight, or cause us to think about our day in way that makes those hours pass just a little more manageably.  If I had the power, I would assign everyone on linkedin the introduction of Gregory Orr's Poetry as Survival for homework. Since this is not within my power, I'd like to begin periodically offering up on LinkedIn poems I've read that I think professionals in different fields might enjoy.
Years ago, I had a poem published in The Diagram, an online journal edited by Ander Monsoon, a poet/essayist/writer who you can find on YouTube, wearing a tiger suit, reading a poem into a fridge.
The most recent issue of The Diagram has a arrived in a flurry of red and black text mixed with “schematics” (diagrams) including Nest Profiles and Plans, as well as Relative Seasonal Availability of Nectar (surely the schematic we’ve all been waiting for).
One thing you can never reasonably claim is that you're "too busy" for poetry: nearly every month I read the poems of at least a few of the contributors, usually authors I know or think I’ve read before, and authors whose names strike me in some way.  For instance, today I read Jennifer Wheelock’s amusing poem, Cloven, solely because one of my colleagues on LinkedIn has notched an anniversary at Wheelock College!
But Angela Palm’s lyric essay (which I will refer to as a poem, because that is how I approach every piece in The Diagram, even when they are not necessarily designated as such) I selected due to its title, "Bloom’s Evaluation of Her", on the off-chance that it might by a reference to the Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, more commonly known as just Bloom’s Taxonomy. I’m hard pressed to think of a more dominant instructional paradigm in education, or one that guides more of what I do on a day-to-day basis.  Angela’s poem repurposes the taxonomy as a way of thinking about a somewhat unexpected relationship, from early intimations and knowledge gathering through her final analysis of what they had or did not have together.
At the risk of pedantry (okay fine, to revel in pedantry), I could quibble at the definition for Comprehension, which I think would be more apt for Synthesis, and could be better expressed as “The student communicates the knowledge in their own words”, and I also feel it’s necessary to point out that her poem (or lyric essay) does not strictly follow the taxonomy, since her piece ends with “Synthesis, Analysis”, out of order, and without the capstone piece of “Evaluation”; however I think it could reasonably argued that in relationships it’s far more natural after they’ve ended or tapered off to analyze them, than it is to “Evaluate” them.  While we may have best friends, we rarely rate them against an objective scale.  At least I don’t.
There has been some question as to the validity of the taxonomy, and while over and over again its validity is confirmed, I think most educators would agree that the boundaries between taxa are not always so rigidly defined.  We may think we comprehend a topic, only to find through analysis that we understood far less than we thought.  The same is at play in this lyric essay, and I think is a large part of what makes it successful.

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