This week in a meeting of my poetry critique group, I managed to say that I can’t write poems with cursing or profanity, which led to a lively discussion of the use of language, in poems and in general.
I was brought up to use proper English at all times and not to swear. Unlike today, where cursing, profanity, and slang is used frequently and is nearly impossible to avoid, when I was growing up, in a town of two hundred souls in rural New England, one seldom heard any colorful language – or backtalk. I do remember our first through fourth grade teacher literally washing out a boy’s mouth with soap once, but I don’t know what he said to warrant that reaction from the teacher. Actually, I’m pretty sure she could have gotten in trouble as corporal punishment was not allowed in Massachusetts schools, but I doubt anyone would have reported it.
Someone did ask me what I would say if I dropped a roast from the oven onto my foot and I were totally alone in the house. I would probably say, “Ouch!” or maybe I would just start crying.
One of the poets thought I should do an assignment: to write a poem with profanity, but that isn’t going to happen. It wouldn’t be true to who I am and I think that that would show. Plus, I wouldn’t be able to read it aloud. I find it difficult, if not impossible to say certain words aloud, even if they are on a page in front of me. Good thing I didn’t get to take acting classes because I would probably be bad at it. I would only be able to play characters who never swear!
As it was, just the discussion had me blushing!
And now you know why my language here at Top of JC’s Mind is so tame…
This (politely worded) post is part of Linda’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday series. This week’s prompt is “language.” Join us! Find out how here: https://lindaghill.com/2017/05/12/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-may-1317/
I’ve just done something I’ve very rarely had cause to do – remove a comment from my blog.
Truthfully, I am not so inundated with comments that this is likely to be a common occurrence, but, for the record, I have a low tolerance threshold for coarse language and decided that I won’t leave it on my blog.
I admit that I feel badly for erasing someone’s opinion, but civility and respect are important to me, so I am making space for them here as I am able.
Our hotel gives us the Honolulu Star*Advertiser each morning. I was pleased to see a front page story this morning about poetry, “Poems give voice to students’ creativity,” by Michael Tsai. (I had hoped to share the link, but the paper has very strict access requirements.)
The article talked about the month-long residency of Hawai’i-born poet Laurel Nakanishi at Palolo Elementary sponsored by the nonprofit Pacific Writers’ Connection. The fourth grade class which is the focus of the article has 18 of 23 students who are English language learners, meaning that English is not their first language. The usually reticent students come alive when they write and share poetry.
I was especially struck by this paragraph:
Such indulgences in creative arts and the humanities were supposed to have become extinct from school curricula in the age of rigid standardized testing. But as a growing number of elementary school teachers can attest, every hour spent practicing the fundamentals of free verse returns dividends of creativity, expressiveness in figurative language and overall language sensitivity that measure well on current Common Core State Standards and other assessments.
I was thinking about the young poets who participate in the Binghamton Poetry Project both in the classroom and in extra-curricular sessions. Their obvious joy in poetry and using language in new ways mirrors that of the students who worked with Nakanishi in Honolulu.
The power of poetry!