Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Rage, Rage

It is certainly a fact that no one really reads poetry anymore. And it is also a fact that the American school system is, to put it mildly, horrible. And on a rerun of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, I found these facts to be once again confirmed. I'm not sure how old this episode was, but that's irrelevant.

For the $125,000 question, the contestant was asked something like (I don't remember the exact wording here) 'what poet wrote the line "Rage, rage against the dying of the light.'? I didn't see all of the answers (by the time I turned it on, the contestant already used his 50/50) but the last two answers left were Elizabeth Bishop (I believe) and Dylan Thomas. The fact that the contestant had to use his 50/50 for this one was already disconcerting, but what bothered me most is that someone would have such a hard time answering this question. He was really sweating in that hot seat. Also, how could this be the $125,000 question? $16,000 I could see. Maybe even $32,000, but not $125,000.

Like I said, no one really reads poetry anymore, so the fact that he probably didn't read the poem for his own intellectual benefit doesn't bother me much. But what does bother me is that our school system is so horrible that someone wouldn't know this, wouldn't have studied it in high school, at least. I mean, come on, this is perhaps the most famous villanelle of all time. This is the villanelle to which almost all villanelles are compared. Seriously, how sad is that? Really?

Unfortunately, I suppose our school system went gently into that good night long, long ago. On behalf of all poets and English scholars everywhere, I send my apologies to Mr. Thomas. May he rest in peace and hopefully not get too many splinters from all the rolling in his grave he, I'm sure, is doing and will certainly continue to do until something changes in our stupid, ignorant, illiterate country we so proudly call America.

"My education was the liberty I had to read indiscriminately and all the time, with my eyes hanging out."

"A good poem is a contribution to reality. The world is never the same once a good poem has been added to it. A good poem helps to change the shape of the universe, helps to extend everyone's knowledge of himself and the world around him."