I started my new classes a couple weeks ago, and I love them. This semester I am taking mostly literary classes focusing on a couple of specific authors. For example, I have a Whitman and Longfellow class, as well as a Keats and Shelley class. Both of these are master-level courses with highly knowledgable professors and students who actually care about their educations.
After taking years of survey level, shallow classes I began to think that I just wasn't cut out for the academic world. I find it tedious and boring. I am so sick of being the only person in the room participating in class discussions--half of the time I might as well just do an independent study with the professor. However, these classes have already forced me to reevaluate this. Perhaps the problem is not me, but rather the classes I was taking. I love learning, and I love deep learning--digging in and really getting into the dirty details, which is what master-level courses are all about.
In my Whitman/Longfellow class last Thursday, the professor discussed how we should read poetry. She said first, you have to research the history of the time period/culture in which it was written. Then, read the primary text, and only then can the biography of the author become important. She said that when you read poetry you can't take any word for granted and should look up words you think you know in the dictionary. When you look in the Oxford English Dictionary--which consists of twenty thick volumes--you find around eleven different uses for each word, as well as literary examples of when each definition of the word was first used.
I have no idea why that excited me so much, but it did. It was like suddenly there was so much more depth I could bring to my studies just by going to the library. I might be a freak. In the past I have not had overly-much of a use for the reference section of the library, but now I am sitting in it with Hermione Grangeresque excitement. (By the way, I was so disappointed when Emma Watson was cast as Hermione instead of me.)
A year ago I did not enjoy reading poetry, but the more poetry I read in class and analyze, the more I fall in love with it. My professor told us that we should read poetry out loud multiple times, each time with different phrasing, so as to change the interpretation. So, that night I went home and read "If You Forget Me" by Pablo Neruda. I had always thought his poetry was beautiful, but this time I was awestruck. I read it aloud three times, each time finding something new in the text and interpreting it differently. Try it! (Remember to look up any words you are not completely sure of; it makes a big difference.)
If You Forget Me
I want you to know
You know how this is:
if I look
at the crystal moon, at the red branch
of the slow autumn at my window,
if I touch
near the fire
the impalpable ash
or the wrinkled body of the log,
everything carries me to you,
as if everything that exists,
aromas, light, metals,
were little boats
toward those isles of yours that wait for me.
if little by little you stop loving me
I shall stop loving you little by little.
you forget me
do not look for me,
for I shall already have forgotten you.
If you think it long and mad,
the wind of banners
that passes through my life,
and you decide
to leave me at the shore
of the heart where I have roots,
that on that day,
at that hour,
I shall lift my arms
and my roots will set off
to seek another land.
if each day,
you feel that you are destined for me
with implacable sweetness,
if each day a flower
climbs up to your lips to seek me,
ah my love, ah my own,
in me all that fire is repeated,
in me nothing is extinguished or forgotten,
my love feeds on your love, beloved,
and as long as you live it will be in your arms
without leaving mine.
I was so enthralled that I started writing my own poetry, my own Keats poem, if you will. I found my voice in poetry for the first time. I think I might have actually written a decent poem. I discovered that my poetry revolves not around the beauty of having the perfect word, but the sounds of the words together; alliteration and assonance are my favorite devices. When I read poetry I get so caught up in the sound of the words that sometimes I forget what it is saying. This makes sense, because I am a musician after all. My poetry is music, not words. Had it not been for my professor pointing out that one word, I would have never discovered that.
So, I intend to read and write more poetry because, to quote myself, "now I know Longfellow's meadow."