(CLICK to enlarge. From left: "the three Jennys"--Jenny Huang, Jenny Chen, Jenny Lin; Shirley, Sabrina, Jerry, Yoyo, Michelle, William, May, Yvonne, Lillian; absent: Schani, Daphne, Sherry, Ariel)
The class is around a dozen preteens and teens, meeting once a week for two hours after school. We've been working mainly on reading Greek myth and writing in response to it. Sometimes however I break into something else. Two weeks ago I took the perilous decision to teach them Gabriel Gudding's brilliantly crackbrained poem "A Defense of Poetry." The poem begins like this:
1. The lake trout is not a furious animal, for which I apologize that you have the mental capacity of the Anchovy.Recently we've been working through an English version of the Odyssey. After Odysseus' men barbecued Hyperion's cattle, I decided to take a break from Homer and introduce Gudding's American poem. Since the kids know English as a second language, before reading Gudding I had to teach them the new vocabulary they'd find (in these first stanzas, for instance, they probably wouldn't know capacity, anchovy, outweigh, barge, dandelion). I left dillywong undefined.
2. Yes the greatest of your sister's facial pimples did outweigh a Turkey.
3. I was eating Vulture Beast Cream, I was eating Lippy Dung Corn, and I said "Your ugly dog is very ugly," for he is.
4. And that is when I turned and a snowflake banged into my eye like a rusty barge and I killed your gloomy dog with a mitten.
5. For I have bombed your cat and stabbed it. For I am the ambassador of this wheelbarrow and you are the janitor of a dandelion. Indeed, you are a teacher of great chickens, for you are from the town of Fat Blastoroma, O tawdry realtor. For I have clapped your dillywong in a sizeable door.
The kids' English is good enough that we had a riotous time of it. I admit we didn't read Gudding's footnotes and skipped some of the stanzas. At the end of the second class, I surprised them by collecting all their copies of the text, leaving them only the vocabulary sheets and a printout of the first few stanzas. "Why are you taking the poem away?" they wondered. It was because I didn't want them to copy Gudding too closely. I handed out an opening they were to use in writing their own "Defenses of Poetry":
A DEFENSE OF POETRY
1. Since your name is _________ and since your ________ is/are like the _____ of/on the _____________, I will tell you that with you I am fed up.
2. For you are the _____________
The students were to take it from there, trying to use the new vocabulary they'd learned. Follows some of their work. Many decided to address the class clown, Jerry. Two of them addressed countries (Myanmar, China). The first poem, by Shirley, is addressed to me:
SHIRLEY'S DEFENSE OF POETRY
1. Since your name is Eric and since your mental capacity is like the dung of a janitor, I will tell you that with you I am fed up.
2. For you are the most foolish teacher in this school. We are the pompous students, you are the powdered trout. We are the rusty mitten.
3. You look like a buffalo trying to stab a wheelbarrow.
4. You yap like a feces from the stork, and never think about your disjointed nose. You puke like a pimple, and seldom think about your outsized anchovy.
5. You wear frosting on your head, and eat earwax like a barf bag. You wear sequins on your feet, and sleep on the roadblock.
6. You dream of lassoing Sherlock and Watson, but keep toting Prufrock from your buttock.
7. Upon occasion you argue with Jessica like an airliner in flame-out.
8. Finally your realtor tells you: you will be decapitated with a dandelion.
1. Since your name is Buffalo, and since your features are like the roses on the feces, I will tell you that with you I am fed up.
2. For you are the president of the wheelchair and the sweeper of a sunflower.
3. The salmon is not a pompous animal, for which I apologize that you have a tote bag full of dung.
4. Yes the greatest of your brother's earwax pieces did outweigh an elephant.
5. For I have punched your airliner and burned it.
6. For I am the administrator of that flintlock and you are the chairman of the bowels.
7. Indeed you are the office holder of the barg bag.
1. Since your name is Myanmar and since your face is like the reflector of the moon, I will tell you that with you I am fed up.
2. For you are the worker with the bell, and I'm the president with an artificial tooth. You have to lasso the stork since you're a tawdry salesman.
3. If you're a conductor of ducks, I'm the monarch of fishes. People will become crows small as ants.
4. Having no feet, they fly and fly, covering the sky. Having no feet, they cannot rest.
5. The whale planet is drowning in water. The geyser spouts trash, trout, anchovies, dung, wheelbarrows, barges and dandelions higher and higher everywhere.
6. Tens of thousands of crows fall from the sky like rain.
7. The crows really need barf bags in which to die, some earwax to avert going deaf, some frosting to cover their eyes.
8. What a nauseating and beautiful world!
1. Since your name is Jerry and since your garden is like the sequins on a barf bag, I will tell you that with you I am fed up.
2. For you are the pompous pimple, and I will stab you with a rusty knife. Even if you outweigh an airliner, it is still a piece of cake to me.
3. For your earwax piles higher than a giraffe, and an army of janitors would be angry to have to clean it. They know hundreds of wheelbarrows would still not be enough.
1. Since your name is Jerry and since your mental capacity is like the anchovy on an old pizza, I will tell you that with you I am fed up.
2. For you are a stork with rusty bowels. I'd be surprised if the realtors would lend you a wheelbarrow to leave.
3. I write just one syllable for you, beginning with sh and ending in t, and the letter between is not o.
4. But that will have no effect on your pompous peristalsis, to stop which the janitor put a mitten in your fundament.
5. The yapping dog cooks you a pimple.
6. Because the barge has been stabbed by my ambassador, because the buffalo has lassoed your buttock, I give you a barf bag full of powered earwax.
7. At the roadblock you are stopped by a flintlock covered in sequins. They cover you with frosting and decapitate you.
1. Since your name is Sejaisc and since your buttocks are like the side view of a sick bag, I will tell you that with you I am fed up.
2. You are going to get trouble if you keep babbling, and you'll get double trouble if you play with the barbel.
3. When you stop making trouble, you'll be able to get a bubble made with barbule. Hey, stop chewing bubblegum and playing Barbie!
4. For you are a pompous pimple, I will squeeze you every time: juicy bao zi.
5. The pork-flavored Pocky in your pocket makes you look so porky.
6. The door to the restroom holds mold. To beat the boss, flap him to Oz.
7. I overlook your Mediterranean and your toro belly, but look over your purse and pocket. Never-ending love deer, four kids and Dr. Sun Yat Sen.
8. A Whomping Willow lassos pupils to play Wii with it in the Forbidden Forest where crazy things grow.
1. Since your name is Jerry and since your ears are like the caves on the mountain, I will tell you that with you I am fed up.
2. For your are the monkey. I'll kick your ice cream to sweeten my shoes. Then Eric will fall in love with me, for he has a sweet tooth.
3. After that, monkey, go away. Go to the farm and have your pumpkin pie. The pumpkin pie you prefer has bugs in it.
4. Jerry is the stupidest man in this world, singing and playing with his bug pumpkin pie. He takes the bugs into his cave with him, a big happy family.
5. Jerry makes the dandelions achy. Stabbing dung is his favorite pastime. He dreams of toting dung as a career. Anything to make him tawdry.
6. The buffalo is very pompous, proud of its peristalsis. On its skin a lot of sequins, but the sequins will rust. So the buffalo hires a janitor to clean its sequins.
7. Sometimes the buffalo is crazy. Sherlock takes a flintlock to shoot it.
1. Since your name is China and since you behave like a gangster soaked in blood, I will tell you that with you I am fed up.
2. For you think you are the legal master of Taiwan. According to you, Taiwan is not a country but a piece of your territory. You will always be averse to those who say otherwise.
3. Nonetheless, though you can't bear that Taiwan is disjointed. Sorry to say, but for God's reasons Taiwan is not any part of your body--especially not your buttock!
4. Didn't you know that not just Taiwan but all the countries of the world are fed up with you? For your black products and “three deer” milk are nothing but poison. Food made from earwax, clothes from which the sequins fall a week after they're bought . . . Maybe we should just load up a fleet of barges with all the goods Made in China and ship them right back to you.
5. I know you've never needed any ambassador. Because you prefer weapons to long talks. But now you have one, right here in Taiwan! For a long time you were yapping like a dog to no effect, but now thing's are different.
6. Yes, Mr. Ma Ying-“Joke” is your ambassador. Huh? Didn't you know most people in Taiwan and the world think Ma is a joke? Perhaps your mental capacity is not up to understanding this. In this respect, in understanding, we are more fortunate.
7. But one thing you're right about--Ma is really the President of Taiwan. He's like a king actually. So he can do what he wants. But it won't be long before the Taiwanese punch Ma. It'll happen before you have Taiwan in your pocket. You are bigger, it's true, but we will protect our country. Because no one wants to be your bowels, or your little pimple, or any other part of your poisoned body.
1. Since your name is Vivian and since your legs are like the legs on a stork, I will tell you that with you I am fed up.
2. For you are the realtor whose pimples outweigh the houses she sells.
3. The police prepare barf bags when they set up a road block. For the drunks they stop. And so in your neighborhood they should have barf bags too. For when you walk buy.
4. If you keep making noise, I'll kick your buttock.
5. Buffalo dung outweighs itself.
6. It's difficult to lasso a stork.
7. Your hair is like a dried dandelion. When the wind blows, it flies everywhere.
1. Since your name is Eric and since your lips are like the anchovies on the pizza, I will tell you that with you I am fed up.
2. For you are the janitor of this Barf Bag and I am the ambassador of a buffalo. You are from the town of petty Realtors.
3. Your dung collection, your pompous pimples and your dog's rusty feces together outweigh our school.
4. You haven't got a greater mental capacity than that of your earwax.
5. Eric is yapping with a wheelbarrow on a dandelion.
6. Your peristalsis doesn't work because of the barfight in your bowels between storks with rifles made of frosting and lake trout swinging disjointed mittens.
7. That airliner with sequins will be stabbed by a tawdry and pompous pigeon.
8. I am going to powder your buttock with a flintlock.
9. Your poem discomfits even that rusty yapping dog.
10. I am going to punch and decapitate your petty rabbit.
11. Yes, I know that you want to tote a barge made of dung.
12. Yesterday I saw a powdered realtor stabbing a yapping buffalo.
1. Since your name is Jerry and since you aim your flintlock like a buffalo at an instrument panel, I will tell you that with you I am fed up.
2. For you are barge realtor. I would advise you to see Prufrock and ask him how to lasso mitten realtors.
3. Since you have been bitten in a barfight, your mental capacity may be unsteady and sometimes you wonder if your skull is disjointed.
4. Your favorite cartoon Happy Tree Friends nearly made you stab the janitor and in court you pretend to be an innocent, mad person.
5. Once you saw a stork crossing the sky and threw up your clarinet to knock it down. Then your clarinet hit you as it fell and you yourself fell from the second floor. You may not remember that your clarinet somehow became rusty after that.
6. Another day you ended up in jail because of the Barf Bag Road Block Incident. You were dragged away with your limbs tied tightly and your mouth taped up because you kept asking questions.
7. You yell out, “Help me, someone! Help me!” A voice answers: “Shut up, Jerry! Why are you always so noisy?”
8. You realize you're in ZEI, the class looking at you.
these are great!
To the Brilliant Students of Mr. Mader's Class:
The other morning I woke to find an email from your teacher Eric in my inbox. A man in Taiwan whom I did not know had written me. Why?
The note contained a link to this blog. I read your poems in astonishment while drinking a cup of coffee with my two cats on my lap. I laughed out loud several times. The cats kept jumping off my lap: they were quite annoyed the I kept laughing. You are all so utterly brilliant. I couldn’t be happier that such a goofy poem inspired such giddiness and invention in you. Your defenses are really funny! And witty! How did you do it? I hope you all continue to write – poems, stories, essays.
Never doubt this: you are ingenious. If you can write like that, you can bring wonder to others. You can re-enchant the world. The world needs to be re-enchanted quite a lot these days. So, good job! And thank you for such a funny tribute.
One last thing:
You ARE the powdered trout. You ARE the sweepers of sunflowers. Never doubt that.
Very warmly and gratefully,
PS, I agree: it IS difficult to lasso a stork.
Wow. This is really amazing. Your students are quite impressive; quite a few of their ridiculous, hilarious lines will be staying with me for a long time.
Although I like to think I had some hand in Jenny Huang and Lillian's English ability (having been their teacher until not so long ago), their creations are truly inspired.
I sincerely believe that they have evolved beyond me in some ways: my "Defense of Poetry" would be far more mundane and far less interesting than most of their creations.
I hope they continue to explore and enjoy English, and that some day they can teach me how to create something so effortless and inspired!
These are brilliant!
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