Sometimes, few things can focus my mind and plant my two feet firmly on the Earth. One of the things that always brings me back home when my mind wanders away is poetry. In my mind, you can’t truly love a language without understanding and loving its poetry. Poetry is about painting pictures with words, and using imagery to invoke emotion and thought. Poetry is incredibly powerful and moving to those who have an appreciation for the elegant simplicity of language itself.
Far too many English majors major in the subject because they don’t know what else to major in. I’ve noted many English majors that I go to school with have no concept or understanding of poetry, and yet they somehow expect to be able to teach it to students in a classroom after graduation. I find that to be incredibly sad and I wish those people would pick a new major, or at least not brag about how they are English majors as though it were some badge of honor.
A major in English, with particular reference to Literature, means that you are capable of looking beneath the surface of a material and seeing what lies beneath it, even if that means seeing things that you don’t necessarily like or agree with. It’s about using the text in front of you to open, expand and assist in refining your own psyche. I don’t know how you would test for such a thing, but I do feel that just such a test should be required of English majors before they can receive a degree in the subject. The rest should move on to teach math or science, or whatever other subject it is that truly strikes their fancy, rather than being allowed to simply use English as a copout because it seemed like a good idea at the time.
I’ve only met one other English major who feels passion for the subject like I do, and it’s sad really.
If you’re interested, my favorite poets are Stephen Dunn, Sharon Olds and W.H. Auden. Stephen Dunn is most noted for this poem with regard to 9-11 entitled “To A Terrorist”. W.H. Auden is well-known for this poem. Excerpts of it were read in the film “Four Weddings and a Funeral.” Sharon Olds is famous for this poem, “The Language of the Brag.” Those aren’t my favorite poems by these poets, but they are the most widely known by them and might offer you some recognition.
If you ever need to come back down to Earth though, you should read this one by Sharon Olds. It’s the reason I’m writing this tonight.