|Alas I am free from the shackles of self expression
December 7th, 2005 • 1:49pm]
December 7th, 2005
The Language of Poetry
More than likely, like many boisterous and youthful freshmen at the University of Memphis this year, when asked to write this reflective essay I stared blankly at my English teacher, appalled by his merciless loosening of ceaseless essay prompts. I think that if many of my peers were to write of the cancerous apathy contaminating their cerebral cortexes, they would indeed be faithfully pursuing the essay prompt: to compose a reflection upon your relationship to language. Amusingly enough to perhaps claim your attention, I have referenced this collapse to introduce my interpretation of the essence of the conflict.
Evidently, there is something strangely surprising about the energetic youth instantaneously reduced to a stupor by a creative writing assignment. The law of conservation of energy states that energy can be converted from one form to another, but that it cannot be created or destroyed. Were this well-established law of physics to hold any water, it would be both a valid and a worthwhile question to ask where this youthful animation went.
It is reasonable, I think, to assert that this problem is similar to a car crashing into a brick wall at some unspecific high speed. For example, let the high initial velocity of the car represent the brain activity and general spirit of an 18-year-old college freshmen pre-essay prompt. Let the brick wall represent the seemingly insurmountably vague essay prompt.
The car approaches the brick wall with its’ high initial brain activity and general spirit (fueled primarily by the sum of the following energy sources: Starbucks coffee, Kellogg’s pop-tarts, promiscuous sexual relations, casual drinking binges, procrastination-induced adrenaline, and Tetrahydrocannabinol). The car, realizing that it does not have the ability to leap the essay prompt, reasons that its’ only fighting chance is to ram and subsequently break-through the wall/prompt. To increase initial velocity, all energy sources increase: again, Starbucks coffee, Kellogg’s pop-tarts, promiscuous sexual relations, casual drinking binges, procrastination-induced adrenaline, and Tetrahydrocannabinol all surge. Provided that the car/freshman does not blow a tire or lose control, the car continues towards the brick wall.
Now, a physicist’s consultation is not required to speculate at what occurs next. In the best case scenario the car would effectively succeed in ramming through the wall, but to label this “success” would be a gross misnomer. For, any situation that results in the utter destruction of the car/freshman could never—by the intrinsic nature of destruction—be called a “gain.”
Certainly though, not all freshmen slam into these writing prompts like English department crash test dummies. Though this essay has thus far been long-winded, it has not been aimless. These freshmen, who through some means succeed in bounding over this alleged obstacle, also do not exist as red herrings to a syllogism that all freshmen are somehow driven to crash and burn. No, these freshmen have learned to scale the walls of the insurmountable. Also, though not always necessarily largely outnumbered, they do typically exist as a minority of the student populace.
What I propose to you, as some modernists have before me, is that these freshmen drew from a creative skill set that they somehow forged in spite of the American public education system. This creative skill set—I hypothesize—is also the direct result of an early emersion in creative writing assignments, namely the art of poetry. The language, claimed by our prompt as the making of meaning, of poetry is the quintessence of creativity. I steadfastly hold to “defining poetry not as a literary genre within a set of genres, but as THE very manifestation of human imagination, the substance which all creative acts derive from,” (Wikipedia).
I look back to my 12th grade English class with Mrs. Williams at Cordova High School, where we had but two poetry assignments for the entire senior academic year. Maniacally, the two assignments were “I am” poems, poems that contradict the entire nature of poetry: for breaking the strict rules regarding the form, meter, and composition of an orthodox “I am” poem, my grade was penalized and I was asked to make another attempt.
I write this essay not to parade my own arrogant overconfidence, or to raise myself to some revered pedestal of creative ability. Instead, I contest that I was actually corrupted by my education to not think creatively, and thus when I hear an English teacher—or rather any teacher actually, because of the overabundance of writing opportunities in college—whine about the near complete lack of imagination from their pupils, I decidedly pass the buck right back to those who deprived me of further creative thought: my educators.
In closing, allow me to illuminate two potential counter-points. Firstly, the affordance of creative opportunities to honors or otherwise advanced students is not always positive, and certainly not a universal band-aid. The pace of an advanced placement or honors course is such that the primary motivation of the enrolled class is not creative expression, or necessarily assimilation of the curriculum, but academic excellence for better post-secondary enrollment opportunities. This faster paced, wider-encompassing scholastic atmosphere is incontestably not conducive to a creative mindset. Creative ground, again, is in my observation won with no aid from the educational climate.
Secondly, this paper is not intended to act as a faucet of blame for those who’ve nobly dedicated themselves to nothing other than the advancement of our opportunity. Let this essay serve merely as a reminder that when playing with a well–established institution (like that of this education system) there is no harm in hearing the devil’s advocate.
“Poetry” Article from Wikipedia.com, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poetry, the free
encyclopedia, accessed December 7th, 2005, article licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.