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Oct. 25th, 2009

A little imagination...

May. 28th, 2009

My First Attempt at a Second person-Clearly too emotional to make it work

In the timeless optimism of the summer, you will make him a promise you can't keep. You're too young too sure, but most of all too hopeful. The warm golden days fill you along with the knowledge that this man-boy is everything you need. He makes you feel comfortable in your own skin. Every move you make is no longer some form of compromise or half bitter.

Of course it will seem reasonable to tell him you love him and promise to move with him and support him. You'll think his bright smile and eyes filled with endless gratitude is a good sign.

Even in your leap of faith, there will be conditions. Your boy needs a job, he must find a way to finish college, and he must have a place beyond the parental home for you to stay at.

You don't believe he'll manage it of course. It makes you sad, but it also comforts you some. The promise to follow him seems a bit silly now. You still love him and the discontent you feel with your surroundings is stronger. Every day you do to a job that's miserable. The call of school can be heard. It promises a change even if it is also something you don't want. Unfortunately, this promise is false. Graduated now and there is no change from one monotony to the others. It's one more phantom limb in your life.

He will do as you ask and he will call for you when least expected. You will be relieved and worried.

Apr. 28th, 2007

Ode To Miller

Perhaps you've been a college student before, but then again maybe not. If you're of the most recent generation, its highly likely you've been to college as about 63% of high school graduates went to college in 2002. However if you're not one of those people let me paint a picture for you. You're a freshman in college, and of course you're highly excited. After all whether or not you're in college for the “Animal House” parties or for the rigorous college academics, this is what your entire life to this point has been leading up to. You are part of the group that made it through some sort of select hoop jumping process to gain a seat in this prestigious class room and all you can say to yourself is something like “hello future”.
So you're waiting and pondering your new life when he walks in. It is exactly ten o’clock, and you think to yourself, “here is a man who will demand excellence from me”. The professor's glasses shine in the window light. The class' nervous laughter and speculation goes silent the minute he enters, a feat not every professor can claim. He takes center stage and places his brief case down on the table before you. It seems the whole class could tell right away that this was a man who takes his profession seriously. You won't be disappointed, as after the basic get to know you information session, the professor hands out a syllabus that included a three page list of his class expectations. Oh and by the way, apparently his name is Mark Miller, that's probably something you should try to remember.
Professor Miller brings a whole new meaning to the word thorough. A lot of people would say that he his so intensely thorough that many fall asleep before he makes his point. This is a most unfortunate situation for those people. Miller might have a dry monotone voice. He might dress in sweater vests. He might mention his beloved Robert Penn Warren so often that it becomes a game for students to count how many references he can make unprompted. However Professor Miller is also a man who takes every student’s opinion on literature and writing seriously. He finds an insightful response to even the most ridiculous of assertions or inquires. He strives to be a teacher who balances his own opinion with those differing opinions of students. When Professor Miller refutes your assertions, it isn't because he doesn't like them, but because the text just won't support them.
Still, it is hard to get through the stereo-typed professor picture. The man comes into class and starts students off writing down their names, hobbies, and lit classes. He goes on to describe his syllabus and expectations in excruciating detail. The next few weeks will be dedicated to a detailed comparative study of Aunt Jeminma to Mrs. Butterworth. Perhaps you can really understand the nuances in the stereo types and their greater meaning in society, and perhaps you can’t. Either way, you’ll know more about a Butterworth bottle than you ever deemed possible. You'll have to wait a bit to see if there are connections to literature or if Professor Miller just likes Mrs. Butterworth.
He may try to lighten things up with his rubber chicken. He will pull that out to explain the light hearted aspect of writing. And he’ll talk about how even this old gag prop has some new uses. Very few people mention the smell of a rubber chicken or the powdery substance someone will have on their hands for weeks after touching on, something you’ll all learn irks Professor Miller to no end. Later you'll find yourself in the bathroom scrubbing the odd powdery substance from the chicken off your own hands. Perhaps its the smell that gets to you. Then again it might just be the way the stuff dries out your hands. Either way, Miller is right, no one writes about that when they speak of rubber chickens.
Perhaps, the rubber chicken will have helped you remain open to Miller’s message. Perhaps it will only confirm his lame and steadily falling value in your eyes. Either way he will carry on and bring up the Dead Poet’s Society. Of course he’ll get the TV with the squeaky wheel. You’ll here him coming long before you see him. It will make his timely appearance less amazing somehow. By now, you’re a quarter of a way through the year and you’re still seeing and getting hands on examples, along with more reading than God can imagine.
When you cover “To His Coy Mistress” by Andrew Marvell, Miller will kindly expound on several little tidbits of information. He will first ask you how hawks mate, to which of course you will not only not have any reply and you will not know how that relates. It will only be after a lesson about the commonality of keeping falcons at the period of time Marvell wrote “To His Coy Mistress” and learning about how falcons mate, that you will realize that “Our sweetness, up into one ball; ” line 43 refers to the sport of falconry and is indeed a raunchy sex reference. Sure there was the line about amorous birds of prey four lines above, but how were you to know to connect the two? You will be stunned by his knowledge and outraged that he expected someone would know this. In fact you will be so busy thinking on this that Miller will make a joke about The Boss and about some show that aired only for a season in the seventies, and you will have no time to make up an odd comeback.
This agitation will lead you to talking about Miller outside of class. You will spread stories far and wide about everything you've heard and read in his class. It won't surprise you when everyone you've talked to has had a Miller class. It won't surprise you that most of them have done at least one of the hands on activities. Of course you'll all decide the activities are lame. This won't stop you from talking endlessly about it anyway.
None of you will realize that in talking ceaselessly about the course material, you are furthering Miller's cause. Whether you like it or not, you are thinking about the literature and you are talking about the literature. Late one night, in honor of Miller you will proclaim “Life friends is boring.” from John Berryman's “Dream Song 14”. Maybe you're mocking how Miller and his grad school buddies did the same thing while drinking, but then again maybe it's because you really mean that life is boring. Perhaps Berryman is just best read drunk and loud. Anyway you put it, your friends will laugh and if you have a particularly good friend with you they will shout out “We must not say so. / After all, the sky flashes, the great sea yearns,/ we ourselves flash and yearn,/ and moreover my mother told me as a boy/ (repeatingly) "Ever to confess you're bored / means you have no / Inner Resources" (lines1-7).
After that night you will learn there is a facebook group dedicated to Miller. It will surprise you that there is a facebook Miller fan club. You will gossip endlessly about Miller. You and other students will spend forever dying to know what his poetry is like, and you'll probably never read that. Instead you'll all just have to consider Robert Penn Warren, Miller's idol. You'll be the one to mention that due to some club he's in he got himself a Robert Penn Warren tote bag. Everyone else will keep their eyes out for it. No one will be surprised that you must type Robert Penn Warren and not just Warren as you might with other writers and poets.
Finally, you will come to your first Miller test. It will be an in class essay, and you’ll be more nervous than anything else. You’ve memorized a few quotes you think might be helpful, then again you've probably memorized a few quotes that won't be helpful too. Death of a Salesman has sort of consumed your life. At the end of the week you will learn you got a C+. You would be mad, but its the best grade in the class, and he's complimented your essay everywhere. So you don't complain, you go home and work on it, and then you work on it some more. You know you can turn it into an A, Miller said as much.
So who is Mark Miller? Is he a good teacher, a boring teacher, or not a teacher at all. Everyone has something different to say, but at the end, you know the truth. Miller is a brilliant teacher. Its not how he presents the material and its not the kind of material. In the end what makes him brilliant is that inadvertently or intentionally he got you and others to talk about the material amongst yourself outside of class. You know more random information from his class than any other. You have thoughts and opinions about what he's taught. Perhaps most importantly, you care more about reading the literature that the grade you get on the essay, and isn't that what school is supposed to be about?


Biliography
Berryman, John. “Dream Song 14”. <http://homepages.wmich.edu/~cooneys/poems/berryman.14.html>
Henry, Tamara. “Report: Greater percentage of Americans educated”. USA Today. 6 June 2002. <http://www.usatoday.com/news/education/2002-06-05-education-census.htm>
Marvell, Andrew. “To His Coy Mistress”. <http://www.luminarium.org/sevenlit/marvell/coy.htm>