The passage below is part of a talk delivered by a renowned 20th-century poet.
|poets, and innumerable people who wanted to be told that they were poets. I have|
5done some teaching, but I have never "taught poetry." My excuse for taking up this
subject is of wholly different origin. I know that not only young people in colleges and
universities, but secondary school children also, have to study, or at least acquaint
themselves with, poems by living poets; and I know that my poems are among those
studied. This fact brings some welcome supplement to my income; and it also brings
10an increase in my correspondence, which is more or less welcome, though not all
the letters get answered. These are the letters from children themselves, or more
precisely, the teenagers. They live mostly in Britain, the United States, and Germany,
with a sprinkling from the nations of Asia. It is in a spirit of curiosity, therefore, that
I approach the subject of teaching poetry: I should like to know more about these
15young people and about their teachers and the methods of teaching.
For some of my young correspondents seem to be misguided. Sometimes I have
been assigned to them as a "project," more often they have made the choice themselves-
it is not always clear why. (There was one case, that of an Egyptian boy, who
wanted to write a thesis about my work, and as none of my work was locally available
20and as he wanted to read it, asked me to send him all my books. That was very exceptional,
however.) Very often the writers ask for information about myself, sometimes
in the form of a questionnaire. I remember being asked by one child whether it was
true that I only cared to associate with lords and bishops. Sometimes a photograph is
asked for. Some young persons seem to want me to provide them with all the material
25for a potted biography, including mention of my interests, tastes, and ways of
amusing myself. Are these children studying poetry, or merely studying poets? Very
often they want explanations, either of a whole poem ("what does it mean") or of a
particular line or phrase; and the kind of question they ask often suggests that their
approach to that poem has been wrong, for they want the wrong kind of explanation,
30or ask questions which are simply unanswerable. Sometimes, but more rarely, they
are avid for literary sources, which would seem to indicate that they have started too
early on the road to Xanadu.
Now, when I was young, this sort of thing did not happen. I did study English at
school, beginning, thank God, with grammar, and going on to "rhetoric"-for which
35also I am grateful. And we had to read a number of set books of prose and verse-
mostly in school editions which made them look peculiarly unappetizing. But we
never were made to read any literature which could be called "contemporary."
No. Not only were we not encouraged to take an interest in the poetry actually
being written, but even had we been, I doubt whether we should have thought of
40entering into correspondence with the authors. Some of the juvenile correspondence
I receive seems to be instigated by the teachers, but the greater part does
not. Indeed, some of my letters, I suspect, are inspired by a desire to score off the
teacher in the hope of getting some statement from the horse's mouth which will be
a direct contradiction of what has been taught. (I confess that this last type of letter
45is one which I sometimes take pleasure in answering-when the teacher seems
to have been wrong.) But my point is that this pressure upon the poet from young
people who have been compelled to read his work is a modern phenomenon. I don't
believe that Tennyson and Browning, Longfellow and Whittier (to say nothing of Poe
and Whitman, poets whose works we did not study) were embarrassed by juvenile
50correspondence choking up their letter boxes. The teaching of the contemporary
literature, the introduction of the young to poetry by living poets, is something that
came about in my time without my being aware of what was happening.
1. The rhetorical purpose of the speaker's statement that he has no experience teaching poetry is mainly to
2. The phrase "innumerable people who wanted to be told they were poets" (line 4) probably refers to
3. In line 20, the word "That" refers to
4. Based on the sentence beginning in line 22 ("I remember . . . lords and bishops"), the speaker in the passage is acknowledging that
5. The tone of the second paragraph can best be described as
6. The statement "they have started too early on the road to Xanadu" (lines 31–32) contains an example of
7. Which of the following best characterizes the rhetorical function of the first sentence of paragraph 3 (line 33)?
8. In context, all of the following describe the speaker's rhetorical intent in using the expression "thank God" (line 34) EXCEPT
9. The last paragraph (lines 38–52) include all of the following rhetorical strategies EXCEPT
10. In context, the expression "to score off" (line 42) is best interpreted to mean which of the following?
11. The speaker mentions Tennyson, Browning, Longfellow, and other poets (lines 48–49) as examples of which of the following?
12. The speaker's tone in the passage as a whole can best be described as