Saturday, March 28, 2009

Cheers for Linda Bamber's Poem "Class"

Most American poets teach but few write about it.  Linda Bamber, author of Metropolitan Tang, is an exception.  Her poem "Class" reminds me of how vulnerable we are when we take poems we love into the classroom.  I'm taken with the bright, lively, slangy vernacular voice of this poem:

Everyone got sick-- 
but I mean sick.  Plus Noah
broke his shoulder, and for days
Scott was dazed from a concussion.
Colds settled in their sinuses;
allergies erupted.  I had to miss class myself

I couldn't tell if they liked Whitman, so I asked.
"This much?" with just a tiny gap  between my palms.
Politely they all indicated
Something in

Emily Dix got sick while we were doing
Emily Dickinson
Which bummed out her dad as he'd named her that
on purpose.
After class I seized the book
and read Scott yet another poem.
Hadn't I worn my heart
on my sleeve enough
for one day?  But after a pause,
"She's such a good writer," he deeply said.
The skin of my teeth relaxed.

Now "Thirteen Ways" by Wallace Stevens.  Suddenly,
success.  It's
the kind of ensemble situation I'd 
fly somewhere for;
I'd get on a plane for this.
No, let me tell you
our little group taking turns today
was like Coltrane's band
on a lost great night.  My lame little class.
Just Noah and Sarah and Andy
the others and me.  Whoopee.

When this class ends I'll be the one
who cares, not you.  And yet
in twenty years
             in ten
                          in two
who'll remember who?

I'm in you, goofballs,
wait and see.

You're just a blur to  me. 

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