Posted by: Casey Lybrand | June 20, 2010

To the Only College Professor I Could Not Stand

I’ve been thinking about people who have influenced me as a writer, partially because of this post at Nathan Bransford’s blog. I’m not sure I’ve come to any clear conclusions, but I have, as it turns out, been writing poetry about it.

Yesterday was my ode to Miss B. Today is a poem about my least favorite college professor, who came awfully close to turning me off to poetry entirely.

(Please note: This poem about an *anonymous* professor reflects only my opinion. If I have stated anything in declarative terms, it is for poetic purposes and nothing more.

Also, I love cats. Love. Which is why I was so surprised by my reaction to one of the poems to which I allude. That poem, as well as those which I quote, can be found in this volume.

And yes, this poem is an homage, though not to the professor. Also please, please note: the “you” in every instance refers to my college professor.)




To the Only College Professor I Could Not Stand

I.

You did not want me
in your class:
I was too young and – though you could not say it –
too female.

You did not tolerate opinions
except from a few upperclassmen.
Your class was too early.
You were far too fond of Yeats.

About your position on the rape of Leda:

I have since learned about feminism;
I now have words I could say to replace
the impolitic ones I’d have said at the time
if I had been braver.




You were a Southern gentleman.




II.

You were the one who introduced me to the poems of Seamus Heaney.

Before, I had not understood why I should care about poetry.
(You hadn’t been helping.)

From Heaney I learned the words sluice, creel, and conclave.
I felt things I had not expected to feel about
dead cats, dead adulteresses, dead croppies. I cried,
though not in class, and not about the cats.

From you I learned cadence, diction, and rhythm,
and how to read poems aloud, following punctuation
and not line breaks.
I wanted to learn when the topic was Heaney.

From the other students I learned why we should titter
through the “Rite of Spring”.




I was astonished.
(Not by that. Also by that.)




III.

The words of Seamus Heaney have stayed with me.
I am haunted by the phrase “terraced thousands”
and the “trove of the turfcutters’ honeycombed workings”
is never far from my mind.

When I went to his poems
I stood a long time.




And so I should say,
you genteel misogynist and rape-apologist,
thank you,
at least for that.




You are still wrong about Leda.


Responses

  1. I like the way you work through this poem..slowly building your case for disliking the professor and why….quite an interesting poem to read…thanks!

  2. Thank you, slpmartin. I’m glad you found it interesting. That’s a very nice compliment!

  3. Wow- you sure did turn something very negative into a powerful, fascinating poem…
    Being a teacher is a huge, overwhelming responsibility, you’re dealing with young people and you can easily shape them; for the better or for the worst. Sadly, I had bad professors more than I had good ones… Who knows, maybe I’ll sit down and write a story about them one day :)

  4. Lua, thank you so much.

    I got along very well with all of my other professors, and I really liked almost every one of them. (The one or two I did not really like, I did not really *dislike*, except for this gentleman.) I was very lucky, and I loved every class, including, as it turned out, this one. (Well, I loved the last few weeks of it, at least.)

    I hope you will write your stories about your bad professors. I’m sure it would be very interesting to read, and most likely illuminating to write.


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