Bar Jester’s Writing Seminar; or, How To Write Like the Average Undergraduate Male

Collegeville

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.

“Convey?”

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