Friday, June 16, 2006

Daily Poem Project, Weeks 9 and 10

The vote for week 9 of the Daily Poem Project (Tuesday, May 30, to Monday, June 5) was quite complicated. The first part of the voting took place on Tuesday, June 6, as planned. However, the vote resulted in a three-way tie for first place, with each of the first-place poems receiving only three votes each. As eight students were absent that day and had not emailed me their votes before class, I decided to allow them to cast late absentee ballots (without, of course, telling them what the result of the first vote was, only that it was a three-way tie between poems I did not identify).

Then, after the absentee ballots came in (four arrived by my deadline of Wednesday evening, June 7), two poems were still tied with four votes each: "On Tenterhooks," by Dick Allen, and "Feast of the Ascension. Planting Hibiscus," by Jay Hopler. So we had to break the tie with a run-off vote between these two poems, which took place on Tuesday, June 13, before the week 10 vote (see below).

At least the run-off vote was decisive, as Dick Allen's poem received thirteen out of twenty votes.

I had originally voted for Seamus Heaney's "The Nod," from his new book District and Circle. While some might consider the poem as an example of how Heaney's poem can be "reduced to a paraphrase," I found the poem quite powerful. It did not generate a "wow" at the end, but it generated another effect worth taking note of: I kept thinking of it out of the blue. (It was also an interesting coincidence that the poem was on PD on the very day that we discussed two Heaney poems in class—to be precise, two of Felix Christen's translations of Heaney.)

In the run-off, I found it easy to decide: Allen's short, brisk play with the expression "on tenterhooks" easily beat Hopler's overly abstract and unnecessarily fragmented "Feast of the Ascension."

The week 10 vote (poems from June 6 to June 12) was much more straightforward: John Balaban's "If Only" won easily, receiving seven votes while no other poem received more than three. One of the seven votes for it was mine; it was the only poem I considered during the week. And even Balaban's poem seemed a bit flat to me on a first reading—until I got to the final line. It did not generate a "wow," but it did turn the whole poem on its head. Check it out!

Weeks 7 and 8
Week 6
Week 5
Week 4
Week 3
Week 2
Week 1 (with explanation of project)

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