Monday, November 21, 2005

Food for the Mind: Terrific Literature Class

An unexpected bonus today.

My Introduction to Literature class was a terrific surprise. My students are reading Sylvia Plath's Three Women, not an easy play/poem for college freshmen to digest. Plath's language is a bit dense and metaphorical, though the subject--birth, bleeding, and death--is very universal.

The students met in groups, and I circulated among the groups to get a sense of what they understood; I filled in any gaps that they might have had. Surprisingly, they already understood the complexities of the play/poem, although they complained about the difficulty of the piece. Plath's play/poem consists of three alternating female voices, dealing with different aspects of pregnancy. I asked two groups to write a poetic response from the perspective of the speaker's significant other.

After meeting with the groups, I took a few minutes and wrote a poetic response as well. (Sometimes, I like to to write along with my classes; after all, if I assign it, I should be willing to do it, too!)

After class, I e-mailed the class the following:


Thanks to everyone who was able to attend today's
class; I know it's difficult to concentrate before a holiday, but you all did a good job with Sylvia Plath's very difficult poem/play Three Women. I thought maybe you'd like to see the poems of Group 2, 4, and 6 (me!), which are from the perspective of the three voices' significant others.

Ms. Siegel


First Voice (Husband):

You can finally rest, my dear
We have a healthy baby boy
You can stop worrying
He has all ten fingers, and all
ten toes, and big beautiful blue eyes.
It was a rough start but
Through much pain and
determination our baby's life was saved.
He will grow to love us more and more each day.
He is perfect in every single way.

by Group #2

Second Voice (Husband):

I look at your red lips, and I know
how much I love you. The blue, autumn
sky is brisk and chilly, but I
do not see you as barren. Children
arrive in many flavors, and not all
children are fruits of the womb.
I see how you yearn for your own flesh,
but it is not flesh that determines
a parent. The sweet wine of a baby's
breath is the same in all babies,
and it matters not if our sons and
daughters push through your canal
or another's. It matters only that
we pick our children before they are ripe--
That way, they will be ours.
The sun pushes through the winter
clouds, and Forsythia blooms,

a blast of yellow petals.
Spring. Our children will be borne.

by Group #6 (Ms. Siegel)

Third Voice (Ex-boyfriend):

You kept me in the dark
She was part of me too
I could've helped you
together we could've been a family

You don't understand how guilty I feel
Never having known your pain or your sorrow
Imagine my shock when I found out why you left
How could you make such a big decision without me?
Did you feel I wouldn't understand?

How could it be so easy to give away our flesh & blood?
Now our daughter lays in the arms of strangers
We will never know her Who will she become?
I wonder who she looks like

Does she have my eyes?
Will she be a teacher, a doctor, a business woman?
These will be questions I will always ask myself
We should've talked about this
This wasn't only your decision
But obviously it's too late.

by Group #4

Have a great holiday!

Some teachers might view a survey course as a sort of "throwaway" elective, but I love teaching this class and take the job very seriously--I love these "aha" moments.

Isn't it funny, though, that I speak of knowledge as being "digested"?

Food for the soul, as well as the mind?

I'd love to hear from other teachers.

Jennifer Semple Siegel

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