Bar Jester’s Writing Seminar; or, How To Write Like the Average Undergraduate MaleBy Jason Peters for FRONT PORCH REPUBLIC
The first thing—and this for obvious reasons—is that you must prefer “within” to “in.” “Within” is longer and takes up more space on the page; plus it’s a word that makes you sound smarter because it makes you sound smarter. So you begin thus: “Within the poem …”
That’s auspicious. But you have to produce five hundred words of analysis on “The Road Not Taken,” though had you been listening in class you’d know that that’s the one poem on which you may not write your analysis—and this, again, for obvious reasons: the professor is not interested in reading yet another paper about how deciding to play football your senior year in high school “made all the difference.”
But you’re an average undergraduate male with the IQ of an ADD-riddled geranium, so you proceed.
But first, pull out your phone and check for messages.
“Poem” is good, but you can do better. You think the poem might also be a “text,” so you revise your phrase thus: “Within the text of the poem …”
Now that’s promising. You’re on a roll.
Poems differ from prose how? you ask. They are composed of lines. And usually they are shorter. So: “Within the lines and text of the poem, which is a kind of writing a lot different than books…”
See? This is going to be a breeze. Call up your buddies and tell them the drinking will start at 2:00, not 4:00.
But doesn’t “within” seem to limit the scope of analysis? It does. So: “Within and throughout the lines and text of the poem, which is a kind of writing a lot different than books and magazines such as Sports Illustrated …”
Nice touch at the end. The professor will be impressed that you can name an actual magazine. (Just be sure not to format the title properly.) So why not name a book too?
Pick up your phone and check for messages.
“Within and throughout the lines and text of the poem, which is a kind of writing a lot different than books and magazines such as Sports Illustrated and”—but you’re not sure you know any actual book titles. You look at your shelf. Empty Captain Morgan bottles—dead soldiers, dude!—and CDs.
Wait! High School English. Shakespeare. The ghost and the walking trees and the damned spot. Right! Got it.
“ … which is a kind of writing a lot different than books and magazines such as Sports Illustrated and Mick Beth …”
[Later you won’t need to be curious about the remarks in the margins of your paper. Your professor will have circled “different” and written “usage” next to it. No problem. When you revise the paper, simply change “different” to “usage,” just as he suggested: “ … which is a kind of writing a lot usage than books and magazines.” That does flow better, don’t you think?]
But what about the lines and text of the poem? The poet is saying something. True enough: if it were you you’d just come out at say it like a normal person, but this is Robert Frost, who isn’t a normal person.
Pick up your phone and check for messages.
“Within and throughout the lines and text of the poem, which is a kind of writing a lot different than books and magazines such as Sports Illustrated and Mick Beth the poet uses … ” uses what? What do you think you should do next, check the glossary in the anthology? Of course not. You didn’t buy the books for this class. Google “poetry words.”
Not very helpful, as you’ll notice. But look more closely: Google wants you to take a look at “poetry words meanings.” See? You’re on a roll. You’re going to rock ‘n roll.
“Within and throughout the lines and text of the poem, which is a kind of writing a lot different than books and magazines such as Sports Illustrated and Mick Beth the poet uses”—“uses and employs!” Yes!—“imagery and iambic footings to …”
To what? Now, see, this is the hard part, so be careful. To say something about … I know: you wish this poem were about getting laid or wasted. You could say a thing or two! But it isn’t.
Yes. Very good. “Convey or get across his meaning and thoughts on life and living in this life in which we live to his audience or you and I the readers of his poem, ‘The Road Not Taken.’” Or is it Taken’.”? Or Taken’”.? Best be safe: Taken.’.”.
State the title twice to up the word-count and hit Word Count. Might as well pick up your phone and check for messages while the word-processing program counts your torrent of words:
“Within and throughout the lines and text of the poem, ‘The Road Not Taken,’ by Robert Frost, which is a kind of writing a lot different than books and magazines such as Sports Illustrated and Mick Beth the poet uses imagery and iambic footings to convey his meaning and thoughts on life and living in this life in which we live to his audience or you and I the readers of his poem, ‘The Road Not Taken.’.”.
Seventy-seven! You haven’t written that many words since you filled out your application. Pick up your phone and check for messages.
“When first reading this poem, the woods are everywhere and it looks like the poem is going to be about the woods. Robert loved nature and loved to be out in it. Like in his other poem ‘Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening’ which is also about woods as can be seen from the title of the poem or poetic text ‘Stopping by Woods,’ woods being a part of nature and as was previously stated Robert Frost, the poet, loved nature and the natural in general.”
Eighty-seven! You’re going to nail this paper.
“But looking at the poem again and in a deeper or hidden meaning it can be found that Robert, or the poet, is really talking about choices, as is seen in his choice to take one path in the woods or nature instead of another. ‘Way leads on to way’ is a line that can be found within the body of the poem itself and means different things to different people but what I got out of it is that Robert is confused and needs to give 110% as a person dealing with some of life’s hardest issues, such as what ‘road’ or path in life to take.”
A hundred and four! Pull out the phone and tell them you’ll be there in fifteen minutes.
“I no this from first hand experience when my grandfather died and wasn’t there for me like he always was in the past tense of my life when it came time for me to decide to play football senior year or not. Like Robert I was unsure and needed advice and decided to play because that is what my grandfather would of wanted. We had a great season and the best homecoming winning with a last second touchdown for which I made and will always be remembered by me. So taking the ‘road not taken’ like Robert Frost in his poetic writing ‘The Road Not Taken’ made all the difference to me two.”
One thirteen. You’re almost there.
“In conclusion, Robert Frost was born in 1874, he was a poet who loved nature, as is seen within and throughout the lines and text of his poem ‘The Road Not Taken.’ He uses imagery and metaphors of life choices to choose his lifestyle in ‘The Road Not Taken’ and that ‘has made all the difference.’ So remember when you’re reading literature and literary works such as poems to read them a second time and look for the hidden meanings that can be found within them. Im glad I did!!!
Eighty-five for a total of … you’re short by a full thirty-four words.
So try the ending one more time:
“So remember when you’re reading literature and literary works such as poems to read them a second time and look for the hidden meanings that can be found within them, like in Mick Beth when the trees walk to the castle. The men are hiding behind them like “meanings” hiding within the text’s lines, which is also a metaphor for literary analyzation. Also Robert uses illiteration to show how being illiterate might mean you don’t get the most out of life or the job you want.”
You’ve done it. Over by twenty-one whole English words. A+ and Keystone Light, here you come.
But wait. You need a title. Here are some common options:
“The Road Not Taken”
“The Value of Poetry”
“What Poetry Means to Me”
“Poetry and Today’s Modern World”
“The Hidden Meaning”
(Be sure to use the quotations marks.)
Save, print, drink.
Note to the amorous undergraduate female reading this: When you scan the campus and realize what your choices are, I know it is tempting to open a vein and slide into a warm bath. But here’s the thing: you may be an average undergraduate female, but there are above-average undergraduate males out there who are nearly your equal. They are out there. It’s just that you outnumber them about 100 to 1. Still, that’s no reason to open a vein and slide into a warm bath.
(And happy 13th, E.M.P.)