This Be The Verse: Choose Your Favorite (version 2)

This is my second version of ‘This Be The Verse: Choose Your Favorite’. As the final piece for my blog, I workshopped with my professor and a fellow peer in order to make this post its absolute best. We added a little, deleted some things, and I think it has come a long way. It truly is a different version from the first, and I hope its improvements symbolize my advances across the semester. 

Choose your Favorite:

Last week, Mr. Denton assigned us a homework task that could result in the exhumation of pain, sweat, and tears. If taken seriously, this assignment had the potential to stress out its victims, cause them to break down like a downtrodden car, or perhaps cave in, like that old abandoned house tucked behind the woods. My classmates and I were given the outrageous task of discovering our favorite poem and reading it aloud, for the next scheduled class period. The hard-smack-sound I heard in the back of the classroom was the two athletes high-fiving; they must’ve thought this week’s project was a simple and laidback one; however, I knew the truth of the matter. My favorite poem… I think I would need a lifetime to uncover an opinion.

How does one who is only twenty years of age have a favorite poem? So many poems are colorful and beautiful, meaningful, and bold. But how can I choose one that I have discerned as my favorite? I can recall unearthing a Shell Silverstein poem, when I was in sitting in my elementary school library.

William tell, William tell,

Take your arrow, grip it well,

There’s the apple– – aim for the middle– –

Oh well … you just missed by a little.

For some reason, this poem has stuck with me through the years, and I treasured it because it was short (I could remember it), and the character in the poem was notably historic. But this only taught me that poetry can linger with you, speak to you, and even change your mood or your views on particular topics; however, there are many poems I have memorized and admired in the past, and this does not mean that they are my favorites. I love poetry; I am a fan of poetry. I have attended over a dozen poetry events where I listen to poets passionately recite their poems. Yet, as I continue to add more and more poems to my repertoire everyday, there has not been that one poem that glows in the dark. After Mr. Denton’s class that day, after the homework was given, I sat on my bed, and I pondered this assignment. I glanced to my right and spotted the first X on the map- a book of poems. This is where the adventure began.

I began this journey at my first destination, my book of Bill Knott poetry. Bill Knott has been one of my favorite poets for only a few months now, and I find his honest and somewhat dark language to be striking and attractive.


Going to sleep, I cross my hands on my chest.

They will place my hands like this.

It will look as though I am flying into myself.

He speaks of beauty, love, and death in the glummest terms- it’s fascinating and also unique. He’s an outsider who knows of his honest place in this world; he knows where he stands in the public eye, and he is not afraid to encompass this outcast role. When I decided I wanted to be a Bill Knott fan several months ago, I investigated his history and found a humorous fact. He once faked his own death, and this is not surprising if you appreciate his poetry. Afterwards, he wrote of himself: “my poetic career is nugatory … no editor will countenance my work; I’ve been forced to self-publish my poetry in vanity volumes; I am persona non grata and universally despised or ridiculed by everyone in the poetry world.” Knott commonly spoke of those who didn’t value him. Imaginably he found it difficult to believe that people, such as myself, really admired and embraced his irrational mind.

“TO X”

You’re like a scissors

Popsicle I don’t know to

Whether jump back

Or lick

Come on… who can’t admire and grasp such a brilliant four-lined poem?

I admire Bill Knott’s poetry, and I respect his talent for making the most absurd and entertaining titles for hit poems; however, I did not find a poem of his that I felt comfortable calling my favorite. The next poet I decided to research was the noteworthy poet, Jon Sands, and it felt like I was flying across the country. Sands and Knott are very different poets. They are similar in the fact that they talk about topics in an honest way; however, Sands does not have an outcast appearance or a desire to transform light topics into gloomy ones. In my humble opinion, Sands fits in with the crowd. In one of his poems, he talks of the rapper, Ludacris, and on his personal blog he mentions his love for tuna fish sandwiches. His poems include taboo subjects, and he speaks his mind, he says what we are all thinking, with confidence and contention. If you’ve scrolled through my own blog, you know that I have seen him perform live, and what an incredible occasion that was. Sands is beyond friendly, beyond vulgar, and beyond amusing. He is without a doubt one of my favorite modern poets; check out some of his videos on YouTube- they’re sensational. But, once again… his poetry is tremendous and spot-on, and I could not choose a favorite.

As I sat at my computer staring at the poetry of Knott and Sands, I fatefully answered a phone call from my grandmother. Being a fan of poetry herself, I asked her what her favorite poem was, and she mentioned the well-known Yeats. I think the sole reason she likes his poetry is because he is a fellow Irishmen (let’s keep that between us). Regardless, the phone call from my grandmother had me thinking about family, and like the rapid ignition of a candlewick, an idea was sparked in my mind.

Let me back digress for one moment. I have a mom, a dad, and two sisters. I love my family; we are a happy, solid-foundation-ed family, and truly, although we argue over thoughtless matter, I could not ask for a better family. Freshman year, I took an English class, and while I sat in this class, the homesickness I felt towards my home was commonly enflamed. For some uncovered reason, my emotions could not be suppressed while in this class, most likely because the poetry I wrote and read embodied my love for my parents and sisters. A similar homework assignment was given to us in this course, where we didn’t have to choose our favorite poem, but we had to pick a poem to memorize and recite to the class. I expectedly chose a poem about family, a poem that had a sense of Knott in it. Philip Larkin’s ‘This Be the Verse’ was my chosen poem freshman year, and now it was going to be the poem I declared as my favorite.

The initial stanza is:

‘They fuck you up your mum and dad… They may not mean to, but they do…. They fill you with the faults they had…. And add some extra just for you.” I love this poem because I find it to be honest. There’s a sense of comedy in it, and yet, like Sands and Knott’s style, it has truth, the kind that most parents and children probably deny. I appreciate my family more than many college students I know, and I do not believe in Larkin’s negative words in the slightest. However, I do embrace the fact that I am a product of my family’s fuck-ups (excuse me), and as Larkin says, I am who I am because of their faults. It’s very difficult to call a poem my favorite; however, this one will forever be one of my top five. Perhaps I enjoy it because I get to say fuck whenever I perform it, but there’s also something so frank about the meaning that I am required to embrace it. To me, my family is faultless even though we can be occasionally disorganized or obnoxious in public. We may be flamboyant, perhaps dysfunctional, but my parents’ fuck-ups don’t affect me in the most damaging of ways. I love my family, and I love Larkin’s words.

What’s your favorite poem?



What Do Freshman Write About?

Last Thursday, I had the interesting privilege of sitting in on an afternoon’s English class. I observed the class taught by Dr. Lux, the woman who was my own English professor a few years back. I spent two semesters with her, during my freshman year at Georgia Tech., learning about poetry and poems and figurative language. During her class, I performed, ‘This be the Verse’ by Philip Larkin, and this was the first time the word ‘fuck’ fell so cleanly from my mouth. During these two semesters I recall that I felt especially homesick, and Dr. Lux and I reminisced on the day when I read a handwritten poem aloud to my classmates, balling as the words trickled from my mouth, for I was too nostalgic to gather myself. I learned a great deal in Dr. Lux’s class (she truly sparked my appreciation for poetry), and I was very eager to see how this freshman class responded to poetry.

 On the day that I observed Dr. Lux’s class, I was primarily interested in what topics her students would talk about. As a freshman, due to the fact that I was horribly homesick, the content of my poems solely consisted of mom, dad, sisters, and New Jersey, even Newark Airport, and it was truly fascinating to see that these students were not much different than I was, nearly three years ago. They spoke of their relationships with their mothers, fathers, siblings, and hometowns. They also mentioned their love of home cooked foods, and the traditions of their grandparents. They also spoke of their childhood pets and their favorite hobbies and the places they most felt at ease. It sincerely put the largest of grins on my face, to see that these freshmen students value their homes and the places they come from.  

 It doesn’t shock me that these were the chosen topics of the students. I am not surprised that the one girl, from Boston, in the class prefaced her poem by saying, “since none of you are from the north, you probably aren’t going to understand what I’m saying- GO REDSOCKS.” What truly astonishes me is the freshman student, although not present in this class, who declares that they resent their home life, their mom and dad, and they plan on never returning to the place they grew up. I feel so unhappy for students like those, and I honestly have come across many. Even in Dr. Lux’s class, a few international students read poems about family hardships and difficult decisions families had to make; however, there was still a sense of pride for their loved ones. Personally, I am a true patriot to the place I come from and the people back home who support me. They are all still topics of my poems, even as a junior in college, and probably that is something that will remain stagnant. Freshman year is truly a year of outsized changes and enormous boughs of acclimation. Family appears more important than previous years because without them, fending for yourself seems like someone has stolen a body part from you.

 I suppose some things never change- one’s love for their family, home, home-cooked meals, grandparents, dogs, and the town you grew up.