“Her poems were published in numerous journals…”

What’s the problem with that statement, you may ask. And I reply, No problem at all. My student didn’t even write “her poems were published in different journals,” a usage I really hate (“different” when the writer means “various”).

Ah, but you know the sentence doesn’t stop there. Here’s the full presentation:

“Her poems were published in numerous journals and attended graduate school at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.”

I’ve heard of scholarly articles, but it never occurred to me that the articles themselves might be scholarly, attending grad school and all. It occurs to me now, when I see poems going to the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

These must be those creative works that, some writers say, seem to write themselves, with the writers functioning as facilitators rather than creators.

I know that feeling, actually. I have been given credit for various (not different) pieces—papers, editorials, letters, even a couple of poems—that did seem to have a will of their own, “want” to go in specific directions. Write a word and it begets more words; write a phrase and you close off a number of possible roads while at the same time opening others that will, if pursued, close off and open more. Go back into a fairly tightly-reasoned piece and try to insert another consideration: you will find that the paragraphs refuse to make room.

Still, having a mind of one’s own doesn’t necessarily lead to the pursuit of higher education. I’m glad to see some poems ambitious enough to make the effort. I hope they succeeded, earning their degree rather than wandering off after merely “attending.”

Oh, okay, I know my student meant that the poet attended the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. In other words, he meant to supply a new subject for that second verb, to make a compound sentence instead of a compound subject. He meant “Her poems were published in numerous journals, and she attended graduate school….” Perhaps the second subject got lost in the course of a cut-and-paste revision; perhaps my student got interrupted mid-sentence (by a gentleman from Porlock?) and neglected to reread what he had written before going on. Perhaps he thought that “her” could function as a subject (oh, say it ain’t so!).

But I prefer to contemplate a group of poems—three ballads, several free-verse meditations, a villanelle or two, a modest haiku, and a sonnet sequence—rising, tassels and sleeves fluttering in the breeze, to accept their MFAs. Do you suppose one was asked to speak? She must have said “It feels wonderful to be a learnéd poem. I want to express my gratitude to my author, who made me what I am today.” And in the audience, the author, blushing and murmuring, “No, no, my dear; you did it all yourself, and I’m proud of you!”

I hope they at least took their author to dinner, instead of going out for celebratory drinks with a bunch of scholarly articles.

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About RAB

Teacher of English writing and literature (college-level); academic-freedom activist; editor and copy editor; theater director, costumer, actress, playwright. View all posts by RAB

5 responses to ““Her poems were published in numerous journals…”

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