An old chap sidles up alongside me at the pub and asks, "Do you like poetry?" and then, with a wink. "For any writer that doesn't is suspect."
My first response was almost under my breath, "Not so much…. " looking up through my lashes.
I studied poetry in grad school and it never really spoke to me or so I was told by my professor. He indicated that he would give me a less than acceptable grade solely based on my responses to the material.
"Your poetry shows promise and your work is exemplary; however, when you respond to a piece, though very well written, you are so far off that I cannot give you a good grade." He chastises while waving his index finger at me.
I did have a response to that. There was no way I would jeopardize my 4.0 for a subjective response. "Okay, I am on it. What do you need?"
"I don't NEED anything Miss Hughes. You NEED to take a close look at the work and respond in kind."
"In kind. Got it. I will. I promise." I smile leaving his offices thankful that I won't compromise my GPA.
Rounding the corner I pause. "Whaaaat? What does he need?" Now more confused than before.
At that point, I came to the realization that I do not care for poetry and I am obviously not very good at it either.
Post the short conversation, my new M.O. was a three step process: researching the poet and the style of poetry; and new, the overall accepted response, and opinions of the work and the writer. It worked a charm.
Through that process, I decided I really do not like poetry. I sensed that poetry had to be read through a specific lens and that just didn't work for me.
Response v. Response
Years later, I was asked the same question… almost as if it was a test of my character. "Do you like poetry?"
This guy loved poetry and was big on reciting certain pieces by heart with the appropriate well practiced accent.
I really enjoy listening to poetry and attend such readings often as there is no written response required.
"I do." I confidently responded. "I enjoy some of the Romantics like Longfellow, Frost, Dickinson, Wilde and of course, Poe. I love the dark side of Victorian poetry, Browning for example."
"Oh, right. Good on you." and he was off. Whether I was being graded or not was no longer important to me.
It does speak to me.
It is a crisp afternoon at the University, walking past the 'bricks' where the hanging out students always perched themselves as it is one of the few locales where smoking is permitted, I receive a shoulder tap.
Turning expecting a friendly faced student, I instead see the face of the head of the English dept. "You missed the last meeting."
"I do teach for three departments, there are conflicts at times. No worries, my voice was heard and notes were taken by my proxy. I am up to speed." I reply continuing to walk as I would greatly appreciate a coffee before the next class.
"I understand. So you will submit a piece for the department's exhibition?" He's asks walking alongside obviously not interested in heading to the MU. He continues to look back as if to judge just how he going out of his way.
"Uhhhh, no." I look at him confused. "I teach English grammar. I assumed, I'd be 'excused' from the project."
"You also teach for the fine art dept.; therefore, it's a given you will submit a piece." His hands in his pockets he looks back once again continuing to keep up with my pace. "You know everyone's curious."
"I bet they are." My hand on the glass door of the building that houses the dark rich steaming brew of caffeine, I stop. He seems thankful that I'm not taking him further away from his target.
"I will submit." I say with a bit of irony.
"Good." He smiles knowing that was my only choice. A good man, stern but dedicated walks away in with intention. Goodbyes not necessary.
Smiling I shake my head. "Here we go again." Laughing as I clearly recall my grad professor.
My dark dark roast coffee is just perfect. The barista, a student from NYC, is always worth the walk. Our sweet little town of 5k is getting an education in espresso based coffee drinks and so far everyone's digging it.
Now frowning as I reach my office door, I realize I should have ordered the Tall. I shake my head and smile, the students already consider me energetic enough. I always tell them that is not only the caffeine, I love art including the written word.
Once seated, I lean back in my chair having transferred the beverage to my porcelain coffee cup. Holding the prized vessel with both hands, I lean back swiveling my chair to face my floor lamp and bookcase.
My eyes cruise the titles pausing from time to time. I spy an 1887 edition of Browning. Sipping, my eyes cruise to a note leaning against dark colored texts, my own version of a Longfellow poem. Another sip, my eyes smile as I gaze at The Raven quote perched against the embalming and restorative art texts.
"Hmmm. Me thinks I do like poetry." I grin into my almost empty cup.