This imagined schoolroom exercise naturally (?) arose after writing a few lines to go with one that I was playing with (‘You can trip the light, Fantastic’) and then thinking about how ‘analytical’ teaching can put someone off poetry forever.
This week’s assigned poem:
Pup Tent Music
The tent’s dark reigned till he turned on the light
and leapt about all sunnily and glad.
They’d had sex again: this time it had been his.
‘I was wonderful,’ he said. ‘I am fantastic.’
She answered, ‘You can trip the light, Fantastic.’
Read the assigned poem out loud in your own laughable accent and again in a highfalutin voice like your teacher’s.
Laugh at the clumsiness of your fellow pupils. Try to pick a fight with the smallest one.
Return to your seat and write out your answers to the following questions:
1. What does the title largely mean? Does it have everything to do with dogs liking music? Nothing at all? Do you like cats? Does the poet like cats, but is trying to suppress it?
2. Explain the solar and lunar allusions conjured by the poem’s use of the words ‘reigned’ and ‘sunnily’.
3. Parse each line looking for rhythmic hiccoughs and spelling errors. Mark the former with green pencil and the latter with red. Count the marks and divide the number of green marks by the number of red marks. (For extra credit explain why the number of red marks cannot equal zero.)
4. Explain why you enjoyed this poem especially if you did not.
5. Does your mother know you are a connoisseur of smut? To avoid the school board having to tell her, explain line three in a nice way.
6. What is the poetaster trying to tell us in the last line of the poem? Is what ‘she’ answers a constructionally idiosyncratic idiom, in that it is impossible to construct a meaningful literal-scene from the formal structure? Is this a wink to Procul Harum more than to Shakespeare’s THE TEMPEST?
Your score for this assignment counts for one-third of your term grade for English.
Isn’t poetry fun!