810. Poetry assignment

810poetry

When Mr Hedley McFadyen was fifteen, his English teacher set an assignment. Everyone must write a poem. The teacher would print them off on an old gestetner and staple the pages together to make a little poetry booklet. It was like being published!

Hedley wrote his poem. It began:

Vietnam! Yes! Spring is there now!
But what can be seen but the splattered jaw
Of the soldier lying, dying there now?

The editor of the school year book so liked Hedley’s poem that he published it in that year’s edition. Unnamed, of course. An anonymous poem. Vietnam. Composed by an Anonymous Student.

That was years ago. Mr Hedley McFadyen was a teacher himself now. He set his English class an assignment. Everyone must write a poem. One student, Josh Shackleton, wrote his poem. It began:

Syria! Yes! Spring is there now!
But what can be seen but the splattered jaw
Of the soldier lying, dying there now?

Mr Hedley McFadyen gave him an A.

40 thoughts on “810. Poetry assignment

    1. Bruce Goodman Post author

      Thanks. I actually did write a poem in my teens that began that way and was published. And then, many years later, I read the poem in another school publication published under some student’s name. I wasn’t annoyed – I was kind of tickled pink!

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      1. Cynthia Jobin

        A near identical thing happened to me. Since my student poem was no longer one I wanted to own, I was happy to let the young plagiarist have it. ….the sincerest form of flattery, etc.

        Also, copyrighting is for the protection of money to be made….who makes any money with poetry nowadays?

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        1. Bruce Goodman Post author

          Thinking about your comment here while out just now mowing the lawn! … re copyright etc. I wonder if we too much think these days of writing for posterity and not for today?? Bach wrote for next Sunday’s service (it was his job and he got paid for it). Hayden/Mozart wrote for next Wednesday’s concerts. Scarlatti wrote so that Queen Barbara could perform a sonata at her next social function… They all had jobs and weren’t writing for some nebulous public that actually isn’t usually there! ??

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          1. Cynthia Jobin

            Writing for today would be the best….but who are the wonderful Bach’s, Haydn’s, Mozart’s and Scarlatti”s of today? No artists make a living, with a paying job now, unless it’s clear that they can bring in the money from selling their work to the public at large. For example, no trade publishing houses publish poetry,—not because they don’t like it, but because it does not sell, and they are in business to sell. You can send poems to the small literary journals, but no one reads those except other poets—who are also competing to get published.

            Those musicians you cite were gifted, well trained and part of their community. They were able to work for love AND money. I shudder when I see how many people now aspire to fame and fortune in the arts and simply do not understand how long the training, how necessary the talent, and how difficult the “selling” of one’s reputation can be. There is a chasm, now, between working for love and working for money. Very few bridge it. (When I say money, I also mean fame; they are inextricable in popular art.)

            Posterity is something we can’t know about. History is full of names that were greatly popular in their own times and are now completely forgotten. On the other hand, there are many stories of work that was discovered by a fluke, posthumously, and became part of the literary, musical, artistic or intellectual canon—a fantasy one could always enjoy.

            As for me, I continue to write poetry because I cannot not. And I find blogging a blessing.

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            1. Bruce Goodman Post author

              Yes – so true – and (almost) depressing. I came across a reference in the New Zealand National Archives index: “Springhill Runes” by Bruce Goodman for String Quartet. I have no idea how it got there, and can’t recall much about it. I asked to see it, and the librarian told me there was an embargo on it for another 80 years!!!

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                    1. Cynthia Jobin

                      I should say, here, that I have only yesterday finished reading your novel, A PASSING SHOWER, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Though it’s readily found by Googling the title and author I do think publication in the form of a “real” book is definitely warranted. Its just plain lovely!

                      Liked by 1 person

                    2. Bruce Goodman Post author

                      Thank you. But how do I do it. George Braziller in New York – Janet Frame’s publication – phoned me three times about it and said he was looking for a co-publisher and couldn’t find one! I was so excited by all that, that it has simply remained in the bottom drawer. It’s a case of “I would write others” if I could get this one off the ground! Thank you again, Cynthia – that means an awful lot.

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                    3. Cynthia Jobin

                      George Braziller is an old and prestigious New York publisher….probably not the best shot for a first novel. They are very good and very loyal to their writers once they take them on, but it’s hard to get in there. You could always submit again, since they take electronic submissions now and you’d probably reach the slush pile of a different editor than you had before. Looking for a co-publisher may have been one way of saying “looking for a more appropriate publisher” for your work. The trick is, you have to submit to many and receive many rejections before you land a contract. It’s a grinding process and requires a thick skin. An alternative is to go “Indy” (independent) and /or do it yourself through some program like CreateSpace at Amazon.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    4. Bruce Goodman Post author

                      Yes – thanks for that. I have tried to get an agent in New Zealand, but they all ask what have you published? Only one agent asked for the first 50 pages, and he said “I found it annoying and know it would make me even more annoyed as the novel went on.” All publishers seem to require an agent here…? I might explore the Amazon thing, but my next door neighbour published on Amazon this year. Her novel was shortlisted (top 5) by Amazon in the “best Romantic fiction” category. She has worked hard and sold two digital copies (approx. $3.00 each) and no hard copies! It’s a bit like we were saying yesterday about earning money from poetry!

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                    5. Cynthia Jobin

                      It’s all those NaNo-writing-Mo’s clogging up the works! (And the fact that so many folks who never did read books or write them have now been “liberated” and suddenly become writers and readers with Kindles and Nooks e-books).

                      Liked by 1 person

  1. Sylvie G

    I wonder why the teacher made the poem anonymous. Was it in those days when they were afraid young people would develop an ego, would be proud of what they do or some other horrible individualistic personality traits ?

    Liked by 1 person

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  2. noelleg44

    i have a big thing about plagiarism and probably would have whacked Mr. McFadyen with a wet noodle and given that kid an F! Derives from having a whole year of research plagiarized by a so-called colleague.

    Liked by 1 person

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Gentle thoughts and expressions of astoundedness are both gratefully accepted.

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