Thinking About High School Reading


It's been one of those days, the kind of day that happens once a year - we reminisce about high school.

This poem has nothing to do with high school, but for whatever reason, the reminiscences that I have with my high school friends always seem to come back to one influential English teacher. Influential how? It's hard to explain.

She made us read Heart of Darkness, and we all hated it, but after six months of discussing it, we fucking loved it. We understand every word choice, every emotion, every intent written within the text. We will never see the words "little sticks" again without imagining ourselves under assault by a team of people who have the unfortunate bad sense to fight guns with bows and arrows. We are still personally offended when someone writes it off as literature that supports empire, when we know that it is the ultimate anti-colonialist text, if you would only let it oxidise for a moment.

I've been struggling with this Poem of the Day column. On the one hand, it has been one of the most popular series here on The Oncoming Hope. On the other hand, I worry that I've just been showcasing poetry that's already popular, and not giving a voice to other writers. I love a lot of poetry. Some of it (a lot of it) you would have already read, so am I adding anything by putting a soft-beam lens on it?

But then, I think to myself, how many of us bother to read any poetry after high school? We were forced to do it then, so we forced ourselves to find styles we liked, just to make the study tolerable. But I've been finding that with poetry, as with music, I actually continue to enjoy some of what I convinced myself to like when I was sixteen. When you think about how much time we devoted to working hard in high school (for many of us Americans, I still wonder if it might be the hardest we worked in our lives) -- then for god's sake shouldn't we enjoy it when we're older?

This entry was posted on and is filed under . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 . You can leave a response .

2 Responses to “ Thinking About High School Reading ”

  1. Yeah, I still have my copy of Heart of Darkness! I just remember feeling, the first time I read it, that I had no idea what I had just read. I was immersed enough in the analytical side of reading and understanding that I knew there was a lot there, but I couldn't grasp it. I love it too, now.

    I am guilty on the score of poetry, though, in neglecting it. After high school, I never sought it out. I only read Howl this last year at the insistence of a friend of mine (great one, btw). I think a big part of it is that prose always gelled better with me than poetry. I can't write it, this much I do know. Also, the teachers forcing it on us was a method that backfired in my case. When I didn't have to, I didn't.

    High school was the last time I took an English class. I placed out of all of it for college, diving into my non-lib-arts major instead. I may find time for poetry at some point. I just need a good reason to seek it out, I suppose.

  2. Poetry is great, I still follow read regularly the poets I love, but am trying to branch out! There's so much more variety than what we studied in school.


Powered by Blogger.