I was reading about how he had taken a poetry class and had to put together a portfolio of poems together for the teacher to grade and he received a "B". Well, last quarter I also took a poetry class and had to do the same thing and I also received a "B".
Needless to say, just like Jesse was upset, I was pretty upset myself. I was upset because I don't mean to be cocky but I think I'm a damn good writer and to work so hard on all my poems and then to get a "B" I was like "Hey now...this doesn't seem right..."
Mostly though, I was offended because I don't think poetry should be graded. He can sit there all day and talk about how he's going to grade the poetry on "growth" but you all know he's sitting there reading them and giving "A"s to the ones he likes the best. Poetry is art. And art should not be graded. When it comes to something as versatile as writing or other forms of art through personal expression, what is great art varies widely from person to person. What one person thinks is beautiful, may be ugly and not satisfying to another. So how can you use a unified grading system for something so spread out along the opinion spectrum?
I came across this problem back in high school too. I took a ceramics class and while I ended up getting an "A", it was just barely and I remember getting so frustrated because while he said he was grading on technique, there were some pieces where my technique was perfect but the piece was more or less, weird looking or off in some way. I would receive lower grades on these less than perfect pieces and after I thought about it I realized how wrong this was. What if I thought that was art? People make imperfect pieces of artwork all the time, using the techniques that he taught us but my teacher was so set on yielding a certain result that if you didn't produce perfection, your grade suffered. Needless to say, I now hate ceramics...it definitely is towards the bottom of my art skills.
Going back to the poetry however, I got into a big argument/discussion with my poetry teacher one class period about the essence of poetry. We were critiquing a classmates poem in class and my teacher was saying how this kids poem wasn't concrete enough. It was too vague. He explained it a little more what he meant by vague and apparently it means that the poem was too thought based. There wasn't enough concrete imagery. I frowned, thought about this a moment and then raised my hand. I couldn't let that slide. Especially because I personally thought that this particular poem was awesome.
Well I was called on and said that I thought that poetry could be vague because it allowed the reader to make their own assumptions about the poem. If a poem is too concrete, it doesn't leave anything to the imagination. For me, the joys of a poem are trying to figure out what the heck the poet was trying to say. Although, half the time, I wonder if they even know themselves. That is why I think poetry is so amazing because everyone gathers something different from any one poem. One person could think one thing while another thinks something entirely different. My teacher didn't like how vague this poem was. He said it needed a theme, or idea to tie it together. I said, okay, sure, but that can be as simple as coming up with a different title, I don't think he has to re write the entire poem to make it say something.
Needless to say, I had to stop myself before I got too heated because I ended up getting really annoyed when my teacher kept trying to get this kid to change his poem dramatically. I wanted to go up to him at the end of the class period and tell him, dude, your poem(s) are awesome. Don't let that old loon tell you different. I would read your poems over some fool like Charles Bukouski who, by the way, I think is a complete and utter idiot in the poetry world. If he can get away with writing annoying and vulgar nonsense that has to do with drugs, sex and drinking, in graphic terms I cannot even type here, then this kid should be able to write whatever the hell he wants too AND get an A for it.
So for everyone out there who has ever been told their art is "B" work. Don't let those ridiculous people get to you. Keep writing, someone out there will enjoy what you have to say, guaranteed. And on the off chance that in this huuuuge world no one does, that doesn't really matter either cause at the end of the day, we artists do what we do because we enjoy doing it. :)