Earlier this week in my tutoring duties, I came across an assigned composition topic that caused me to wonder precisely what mind-altering substance the teacher had taken prior to assigning the composition. First of all, the assignment involved the work of E. E. Cummings, who is my least favorite poet either to walk the Earth or to ride upon its surface in a wheelchair. E. E. Cummings allegedly authored his first poem at the age of three. His first work: "Oh,the pretty birdie,O; with his little toe,toe,toe." I hope you have a barf bag within reach. The sad thing is that his poems never got significantly better. If forced to choose, I would elect to respond in a one-hundred page dissertaion to the vacuous haikus my brother authored for homework under threat of parental abuse in third grade before I would write ten pages in response to any or all of E. E. Cummings' works. I find Cummings' disdain for capital letters and punctuation to be highly a annoying affectation.
Obviously someone must have found some worthwhile tidbit somewhere amidst the works of Cummings, or his writings would have received neither the acclaim nor the notoriety that would give anyone a reason to write about them Nonetheless, I will venture onto a limb here: The emperor is naked! * The works of E. E Cummings suck! I apologize for my lack of eloquence, but sometiomes the best expression of one's point is in the vernacular.
Not only was this a writing assignment about the works of E. E. Cummings, which would arguably considered a violation of the Geneva Convention if forced upon a prisoner of war. The entire minimum-five-hundred-word composition was to focus upon one isolated line from "anyone lived in a pretty how town." If you're familiar with the particular Cummings work, try to guess the line the teacher selected for analysis. If your guess was, "he sang his didn't and danced his did," you won the jackpot. How does one come up with one-hundred words, much less five-hundred, about "he sang his didn't and danced his did" ? I felt so sorry for the girl that I was tempted to write the paper for her myself, but I knew I couldn't do that, and besides, I would never voluntarily write about E. E. Cummings.
I finally gave my tutoring subject some ideas about how dance is a more fitting medium for celebration, i.e. football players and their signature end zone moves, while song is more suited for lament. I helped her find a few quotes about blues as an art form to give her a little more material on which to expound. I'm supposed to meet with her again next week in order to produce a final copy from her rough draft. She has my sympathy.
The only thing I can think of that might be worse than writing a single composition on the assigned topic would be reading thirty or sixty papers on the topic, depending upon how many sections of the course the particular instructor teaches. I cannot fathom a more mind-numbing experience. My friend says that with drugs, all things are possible. I suspect that, just as drugs were most likely part of the inspiration for the topic, drugs will be essential in the grading process as well.
*Thanks for the inspiration, Matt.