‘Now, Students,’ said the teacher, ‘I’ll Tell You What This Poem Really Means’


BOOK_52 - BLUE - FAMOUS POEMSOh, that I were a poet.
I would share thoughts so sublime.
I’d create lovely images,
In meter and in rhyme.

I’d delve my inmost being
And discover truths so pure.
Then I’d carefully release them
Into words that would endure.

Oh, that I were a poet –
Not just one who writes in verse.
But to be a genuine poet
Is both blessing and a curse.

Poets true to their great calling
Must give forth all that’s inside.
Every piece they write’s revealing,
Secret selves they cannot hide.

For in halls of education
Teachers who are “in the know”
Will interpret all that’s written
And out of proportion blow.

If the name below the poem
Is one famous as a bard,
Then his simple words and pictures
Are by education marred.

So – I’m glad I’m not a poet.
It’s much better to be free
From high-brow interpretation
And write verse that’s just plain me.


I figure I can get away with this slam against most literary interpretation since I spent many, many years of my life as an English and Literature teacher. Standard curricula encourage and often require teachers to help students learn to “interpret” poems. Occasionally, there is a real underlying meaning to the words in those stanzas, but more often than not, they mean exactly what they say and nothing more. In the last several years as a high school teacher, I tried to help students develop a love and an enjoyment of poetry rather than pushing them to try to find hidden meanings in every piece. Life is best when we keep it simple. So is poetry.


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