Friday, April 01, 2016

Did Picasso have tenure?

Another blast from the past.
Hey, what can I say; from time to time, a professor needs to spend time listening to other professors pontificate ;)

It is poetry month.

Prosaic I am, yes.  But, I love the idea of poems.
Having a book of poems around is like having flowers on the table.
Like playing an opera LP on a sunny afternoon.
Like having coffee with cheesecake.
Or better yet, having coffee with cheesecake while listening to an opera LP on a sunny afternoon in a room with a bunch of flowers in a vase.

But, prosaic I am.
Dull, boring, lacking in that poetic aesthetics.
That is me.

Some of us are born that way.

Yet, from time to time, I seek out poems.
Why not?

I searched for poems about teaching.
And came across this one.
It is funny as hell, especially if you are like me dealing with teaching and teachers.
It is sarcastic.
Here it is for you, also, to enjoy.

With Tenure
by David Lehman

If Ezra Pound were alive today
(and he is)
he'd be teaching
at a small college in the Pacific Northwest
and attending the annual convention
of writing instructors in St. Louis
and railing against tenure,
saying tenure
is a ladder whose rungs slip out
from under the scholar as he climbs
upwards to empty heaven
by the angels abandoned
for tenure killeth the spirit
(with tenure no man becomes master)
Texts are unwritten with tenure,
under the microscope, sous rature
it turneth the scholar into a drone
decayed the pipe in his jacket's breast pocket.
Hamlet was not written with tenure,
nor were written Schubert's lieder
nor Manet's Olympia painted with tenure.
No man of genius rises by tenure
Nor woman (I see you smile).
Picasso came not by tenure
nor Charlie Parker;
Came not by tenure Wallace Stevens
Not by tenure Marcel Proust
Nor Turner by tenure
With tenure hath only the mediocre
a sinecure unto death. Unto death, I say!
Nature is constipated the sap doesn't flow
With tenure the classroom is empty
et in academia ego
the ketchup is stuck inside the bottle
the letter goes unanswered the bell doesn't ring.

(Ok, ok, poetry month posts are not new at this blog. Click here for the post from 2014, and this is from 2013. Hey, even from 2010 and 2009!)


Anne in Salem said...

The most cynical among us would say that tenure at a public college is all these things because public college professors, like all teachers, are government employees. Most of Lehman's comments could applied to both groups of employees.

Impressive range of culture demonstrated. Why couldn't we read poems like this in high school? More people might like poetry if these were the offerings when we were young and impressionable.

Sriram Khé said...

"Why couldn't we read poems like this in high school?"
An example of why curriculum discussions in K-12 become so political.

Ramesh said...

In Class 12 , I hated poetry. Not that I love them now, but I can at least relate to them.

Are you going to write a poem every day ?

Sriram Khé said...

Rest assured that it won't be a poem every April day. Relax! ;)

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