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I have been writing

February 15, 2011

if that is what reading one sentence over and over, deleting it, restoring it, and eating 4000 hershey kisses is called. This activity takes place late at night and early in the morning, minus the kisses. Meanwhile, classes have started. I am teaching more than usual, hence, silence on the blog. Today, in Introduction to Creative Writing, a class filled with people who are fulfilling some kind of writing requirement and are not English majors, I told my unhappy students about John Donne and his interesting relationship to God. The class went something like this:
“What does ravished mean?” (this is me)
silence
“Well, can you get the meaning from the context? Donne wants to be “ravished” by God. What could this mean?” (I admit it; this is a disingenuous question)
silence.
“Ravished often meant raped in the 17th century.” ( I say this neutrally.)
silence.
“Did you hear what I just said?”
silence.
“You should be shocked.”
—–
This is when existential loneliness, or just plain old loneliness sets in.
I look out the window and think I should not be reading John Donne with these poor souls.
But I give it one more shot:
“Imagine writing a poem about having sex with God? That is what Donne is doing.”
laughter.
“Don’t worry. I ‘m not going to make you do this”
more laughter. (I’m grateful for the laughter)
“Imagine having this kind of passion for the divine,”
silence again.
My students aren’t really interested in imagining this and why should they be? Nor do they want to hear about John Winthrop’s weird poems to God, even though I suddenly feel like talking about them. This is Introduction to Creative Writing, not Introduction to Theology or Introduction to the History of English and American poetry, or Introduction to Church History, or even Western Civ I. And so we veer back to the topic of the day — What is a sonnet — and end the class by reading Elizabeth Bishop’s “sonnet” which mystified all of us. I did not help matters by reflecting that it was curious to see how un-iambic she is. Although, I was happy with my new word: un-iambic. In fact, it is possible that I wrote this entire blog post just to write un-iambic in public, although on second thought maybe it should be non-iambic, which seems very different from trochaic. I worry about sounding pompous. But here, perhaps, it is just fine to reflect on old fashioned things like meter, largely because I know my poet friends are out there, reading me — thank goodness.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. February 15, 2011 9:50 pm

    Your poet friends ARE reading this. Some of them are also uniambic.

  2. February 15, 2011 10:22 pm

    You need me back in class to stir these empty souls up. I may say something like, “Char– are you telling me that Donne was having sex with god?… if so what position……..”

    Hmm. Now that I think about it, maybe this is why I am not in your class.

  3. Kate Schultz permalink
    February 16, 2011 10:28 am

    I remember a similar lesson on John Donne in your class. And I remember discussion about what it means to “die” in a love poem. It was kind of a pivotal moment – knowing these old poets wrote such dirty things…Maybe you shocked your class. You not only talked about sex, but you talked about sex with God. Let it sink in a while. My guess is that there is some processing going on in that silence. I hope.

  4. February 16, 2011 3:43 pm

    I am not anything like a poet, and I’ve never even met you. But I am reading you, and laughing, and sighing, and praying that my daughter (17) will get to have an English teacher anywhere near this good in college.

  5. Ruth permalink
    February 16, 2011 5:38 pm

    While you are not teaching any of these topic: Introduction to Theology or Introduction to the History of English and American poetry, or Introduction to Church History, or even Western Civ I. , it IS Introduction to “Thinking”!!!!! Oh how I’d love to be in one of your classes. At my advanced age, I am somewhat fearless (I do, afterall teach the beginning Middle Schoolers). How well I remember my Freshman year Lit course and how it shocked so many of my new classmates. Keep on pushing.

  6. Glenn Falk permalink
    February 16, 2011 8:28 pm

    When did the more negative connotations of “ravished” transmute into something more “ravishing”? Did Donne have anything at all positive in mind?

  7. February 16, 2011 9:41 pm

    Yes, he thought it would be glorious to be ravished by god. he wanted nothing more than to be “enthralled” by God.

    how are you??

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