Crazy-busy here, since we're on the trimester system and the first term is coming rapidly to an end, so there is tons of grading and exam-writing and all the rest. But actually exam-writing has its lovely moments, one of which I want to share.
This fall my freshmen did a week on list literature -- poems and prose using lists as a literary device. They read Walt Whitman, June Jordan, Annie Dillard, James Berry, Gary Snyder, W. S. Merwin, Philip Gross, et al., and they wrote three pieces of their own, each modeled on one of the pieces they'd read. And some of them came up with some very good poems, which they are now submitting to our school's literature and arts magazine. All very lovely, and definitely an assignment I'll do again. So I wanted to put a new example of a list poem on their exam and ask them to write a paragraph about it, doing the same kind of analysis we'd done in class.
My quest for a new list poem led me to Korean poet Ko Un; four pieces of his were translated and published in the latest issue of Poetry. I really like them! Here's the one I'm thinking of using on the exam:
Asking the Way
by Ko Un, translated by Suji Kwock Kim and Sunja Kim Kwock
You fools who ask what god is
should ask what life is instead.
Find a port where lemon trees bloom.
Ask about places to drink in the port.
Ask about the drinkers.
Ask about the lemon trees.
Ask and ask until nothing’s left to ask.
Isn't that lovely?
(I don't actually expect that most of my freshmen will be able to say much insightful about the poem -- it will be the first time they've seen it, after all -- but I'm trying to put something challenging and new on the exam for all of my classes. Not worth that many points, but I like the idea of making them think about something new in addition to doing the more comfortable thinking about Catcher in the Rye, which we've talked and talked and talked about.)