Who’s To Blame For Herb’s Poetry Habit

Herb’s Blog, Herbdate 22138 – 709:

As you may or may not recall I have at times fancied myself something of a poet. I think some of my stuff is okay while some of it is mind-rotted drivel of the lowest sort. And some in between. I have read books on the subject and some of the things make me think, “I could do that.” Every once in a while I will stumble on a style or pattern that I either had not heard of before or it had been a long time. Of course, there are some, like the sonnet, that are pretty standard. I like the way they sound and feel. One I recalled after it recently was featured on James Proclaims, the Villanelle. It’s one I don’t have memorized and had to go do some looking up, which I liked doing. I will share one in a few days as they are a bit tricky to just write off the cuff.

While I was thinking about this I started to wonder how I ever got to liking doing any kind of writing. What made me want to write instead of learning about Math? I mean, I have mentioned at different times my OCD (should be CDO) and my fascination with patterns and numbers, most recently in my story Even Steven. So it would seem like a natural turn that I should like math. But I have an idea why. The difference was teachers.

In my early years we moved around a lot and I almost never went to the same school twice. The exception was when they had me skip the third grade. It wasn’t until Junior High and High School that I had the same teachers and saw the same faces. I was not interested in much of anything in school, it all seemed so boring and such a waste of time. I really was a rotten kid and if you took all the decisions I made as a young teenager and did the exact opposite you would be a shining star. But, sitting in the back of the class with the stoners and dirtballs I discovered that words have a surprising power. Words could make people laugh or cry or get angry. I said something to the girl who sat behind me and she got so mad she clobbered me with her binder. I mean that thing hurt! But everyone cracked up.

That was in Mrs. Reichel’s ninth-grade English class. She could have done any number of things but she just said, “Words can certainly have an effect on people, can’t they?” I actually thought about what she said. No math teacher ever said anything profound like that. One time in her class she said, “What do you think of when I say the word freedom?” Well, me and one of my stoner buddies, Randy L., I think, started singing in our Janis Joplin voice, “freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose…” “Okay. But what did Miss Joplin mean in her song when she said those words?” Math was just a problem and a nuisance but English made me have to think so hard my brain hurt. It was a challenge.

Tenth-grade English fascinated me further. Mrs. Maas saw something in my journal project that intrigued her. “Do you write much poetry? Have you written any of these stories anywhere else?” She saw that I was a little embarrassed because, well, boys, especially boys who had a reputation for fighting at the drop of a hat, didn’t write poems, did they? “I think you should pay attention to these next few weeks. Even if they seem boring to you, they might be of value to you. You have a knack for using words and being witty.” This was the section on poetry.

The intricate patterns and uses of sounds in Edgar Allan Poe’s, The Bells and the use of resonance and the placement of rhymes in parts of the line other than just the end and the repetitive use of the word “Nevermore” and the dark meaning of The Raven. Then the different meters and how you could use them and that words were more than syllables. Iambic Pentameter and Shakespeare. I devoured the works of both Poe and Shakespeare and ran across others that she had hinted at. She encouraged my reading as well as my writing. “You can read the King James Bible, Herb, so I know you will understand the stories of Shakespeare. You may not get every word but just read it and get the feelings and the stories.”

“There’s a book in the Social Studies Resource Center you may or may not enjoy. But you have to ask for it.” The books you had to ask for were well-rumored to have some bad stuff. “It’s called Catch-22.” I loved reading and finding out there were books like that (which, now, as an adult, I realize it was so hard to get because they wanted us to read it, was all. Nor was the content as bad as all that. Tricky) just made it better. I had made up stories about the Plutonian Peace Police Patrol and then I read, “Have Spacesuit, Will Travel” by Robert Heinlein. I had already been to Pluto, but this was different. Then reading, “The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress” and at a time when computers were building size monstrosities, the idea of a computer being intelligent and running a revolution of the moon colony that had some striking similarities to our own American Revolution just blew my imagination away. Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine and The Martian Chronicles and Fahrenheit 451.

“Herb, this sonnet is beautiful. You got a couple of the metric feet backward but that’s okay. It changes it up and the average reader is not going to know. You know, Herb, and I’m telling you this because I think you have a lot of potential. You should work half this hard at your other classes.” Which I didn’t. I was bored in all the other classes. But those teachers didn’t connect with me. I was a troublemaker and a class clown and all the kids I hung out with were the stoners and the Indians and the dirtballs. I had a couple of “mainstream” friends but not a lot.

So, who is to blame for all of these blogs and poems and writings and such? Charlotte Reichel and Sonja Maas. I felt connected to them as people because they acted like there was something respectable about me even if I didn’t respect myself. I felt like somebody in my own right.

21 Comments

  1. It is amazing how God orders our steps to place us in the path of people so He can get us exactly where He wants us to be. They saw just a glimpse of what He sees and years later…

  2. Good for you to have teachers who cared. I was a world class underachiever and my instructors just let me sit in the back and disappear. This is probably why I don’t understand most poetry and have a warped sense of humor. But it has served me well

    Love laughter

  3. Words do have power. And you sound like me when I was in school. I sat in the back with the Stoners as well. I WAS a stoner! LOL But most of my English teachers loved me because I could write and I wrote stories back then too. I sucked at Math. And many teachers in math and science would jump my tail when they’d catch me writing a story in class instead of focusing on their subject. I’m sure that happened to you as well. 🙂

  4. I was a total PITA at school but I had an art tutor who liked what I did and an English tutor who taught me to love to read and encouraged me to let my mind free for ‘creative writing’. He indulged me, I think, must have seen something in me – although I’m never certain it was ever really there…

  5. Oh that someday, somehow we could be such teachers. The ones that look underneath and beyond. The ones who push just enough that we know they believe we can. I had a few of those and will ever be thankful.

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