Links to some things online that I found valuable, and to some things that I haven’t read yet but want to later:
1. The movie “Dazed and Confused” is 20 years old — which actually means there’s been more time since the movie came out than there was between the movie (1993) and its setting (1976). Also, the backstory on the “moontower.”
3. The sound-length of words: “No” vs. “Nope.”
He seemed uninterested in interpreting poems, which was at first mystifying to a student like me, who had been trained to believe that the most valuable response to a poem was finding something clever or unexpected to say about it. He thought that the right words in the right sequence held a power that was magical and instantaneous. He read poems to us — W.B. Yeats, Thomas Hardy, Wilfred Owen, Elizabeth Bishop — with a passion I had never before encountered. His voice was rough and magisterial. Words were alive in him. He read with a clenched jaw and his body almost shaking. He described John Keats’s letters and made clear his sense that the imagination was a sacred place breeding authenticity in words. He insisted that the poem be lived. One student turned in a poem that used the word “lion” a single time, to symbolize power. Levine almost blew up. “Goddamn it,” he shouted, “if you’re going to put a poor lion in your poem, I want that lion to be there.” He seemed to hunger after the texture of reality, which took many forms, but which was instantly recognizable to him. Another student’s poem began: “A window. A baseball. The possibilities.” It was a sparse and, in certain ways, abstract poem. He loved it. He saw a world in it: the object in flight, clean and clear; the suspension of time; the opening of imaginative possibility, of promised lands, however shattered, within the disappointments of the actual one.
I like the idea of responding to the immediacy of the poem rather than trying to interpret it. If the poem is honest, there may be no interpretation that is necessary.
5. Reginald Dwayne Betts gives some poetry advice in his essay “What It Is”. Some of my favorite parts:
This ain’t about risk. Risk is living below the poverty line in the worst part of town; risk is raising a black boy in a town with laws like Stand Your Ground; risk is being a single parent without family or community support; risk is what soldiers, police officers, firefighters encounter. Poetry is about language, words, about being as honest as you can on the page.
There are things you say in a room with friends. Things you hear others say and can’t forget, ’cos you spent an hour arguing with them, or laughing. The poem should be that, something worth screaming about.
Don’t write about being white.
Don’t be afraid to hate poems. Don’t be afraid to hate your own.
Don’t be the person who only notices the elephant in the room.
Don’t believe them when they say a poem has room for everything. Only the grave does.
Stop with the allusions to dead poets. You do something other than read poetry.
Don’t betray the people you right about.
Don’t strip your poem of identity. Don’t make your identity the poems.
Right now there is someone lying to a child, praising the work of some thirteen-year-old kid as if it were the sign of latent genius. Don’t be that person. Teaching poetry to children isn’t about discovering genius. It’s about discovering language, and discovering the difficulties inherent in manipulating it.
Work in a place where no one knows what an iamb is.
Don’t condescend. There is prejudice in calling something beautiful for the act and not the fact.
The colloquial is always musical. “You lucky I can’t breathe or I’d walk all up and down your ass.”
8. The AVClub’s discussion of perfect pieces of pop culture.
9. How we conceive of the mind — a discussion of Kurzweil.
10. Fifteen years of “The Big Lebowski.”
12. The much-lauded KIPP charter schools have high graduation rates but their students’ college-completion rates are much lower. I hate to be cynical about educators having the success KIPP has had, but as a teacher at a regular public high school, I do get tired of being told that certain reformers have found the perfect way forward. Students are way too unique, and I would just love policymakers to allow a multitude of ways to teach.