Momentary lapis lazuli of reason: Academia, for better or verse
A production of the EPET program at Michigan State University
First published in East Lansing, MI in 2015 by Ivory Tower Publications. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/
All images belong to the indvidual photographers as listed in the photo credits page. Layout and design by Punya Mishra (punyamishra.com) Typeset in Baskerville & Futura Printed & Bound at MSU Libraries, Espresso Book Machine East Lansing MI, 48824
Dedicated to the ghosts of graduate students past, present, and future.
“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked. “Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.” “How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice. “You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.” ― Lewis Carroll
Taking something from one man and making it worse is plagiarism. ― George A. Moore
Preface Why a book of academic poetry? At one level it means one more publication in our vitas. So there, tenure committee! Truth be told, the main reason for this volumeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s existence is that we (faculty and students in the Educational Psychology and Educational Technology Program at Michigan State University) had fun writing these poems and wanted to share them with the world (whether the world cares or not is another matter). It was fun to take famous poems that we all love and rewrite them with themes and ideas that permeate graduate school and academia. For the most part, we have attempted to work within the rhythms, meters, rhymes, or tropes of the original poems, (though also taking advantage of the freedom provided by poetic license) even while infusing them with our impressions or experiences from academic life. (Howâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s that for a top-notch, run-on academic sentence!)
On these pages are adaptations of poems that will make Emily Dickinson lose hope and William Shakespeare think that there is something rotten in the state of academia. Edgar Allen Poe will scream “Nevermore” and Robert Frost will give his head a shake, to ask if there is some mistake. To take these wonderful poems and rewrite them—to use the most beautiful works of the English language to describe the shenanigans of graduate committees—seems almost a silly travesty. Maybe that was the point. No one plans a book like this: It just happens. As it transpires far too often in academia, what began as one individual rewriting a poem just for the heck of it, snowballed into a committee as others chipped in with edits and suggestions. Soon the process took on a life of its own as people began to play with their own favorite poems, basing their new versions on different aspects of academic life. It was then that the idea of putting it all together in a book came to mind. The availability of the Espresso Book Machine at the MSU Library made this idea relatively easy to implement. Since all the poems ultimately had multiple people who worked on them, we have chosen to list the entire group of collaborators in this project right at the start of this book. That being said, each poem also has a very personal connection for the person who originally selected it. People picked poems they loved and then crafted their own ii
versions, before sharing it out to the group. So, we have also listed the lead author for each poem understanding that multiple people were involved in giving it the shape and form it has on the page. Blame, it is hoped, will not be assigned, when enough people are involved. In many ways, the process followed in coming up with this book captures some of the core aspects of the creative process. It builds on individual passions and skills, but it is the shared wisdom of the group that brings it to fruition. It should be noted that these previous sentences are a good example of how academics try to make things appear more profound than they are or need to be. At the end of the day, what we do have are a bunch of poems that we had fun creating. Interspersed among the poems are photographs taken by students and faculty in the programâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;again for no particular reason but to pad the book and make it look more grown up. So with apologies to the authors of the original poems, we offer to you, dear reader, this humbling, bumbling little volume. Enjoy!
Contributors This book has been made possible by a large number of people volunteering their time and effort. In some cases, since they didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t initiate / select a poem to work on, their names did not end up as the lead author on any poem. But those whose names do make it to the table of contents know that these poems would have been quite inadequate without the support and help they received. So below we list all the people who stepped in and helped out in making this book a reality. So alphabetically, here we go: Emilia Askari, Liz Boltz, Diana Campbell, Jon Good, Day Greenberg, Christine Greenhow, Sarah Gretter, Matthew Koehler, April Niemela, Sandra Sawaya, Leigh Graves Wolf, and Andrea Zellner. As in every project there are a few individuals who require a special note of thanks. This is becuase they took on the dirty work (in this case, of scheduling meetings, editing the poems, counting syllables, in short, not giving up). They are (in alphabetical order): Spencer Greenhalgh, Danah Henriksen, Rohit Mehta, and Punya Mishra. Finally, a special thank to Jonah Magar of Michigan State University Libraries for helping get this book printed.
Table of Contents Preface
Table of contents
ix Punya Mishra
Blabberjocky on the fifth
Stopping by college on a snowy evening Diana Campbell
Scholar’s Sonnet #18
“Hope” is the thing that withers
Statement to Practicum
A Draft within a Draft
10 The New Scholar of the Lot ix
12 O iPad! my iPad!
Day Greenberg & Spencer Greenhalgh
13 O Captcha! My Captcha!
14 This is Just To Say
15 The red comment box
16 The White MacBook Pro
17 I wandered lonely in the crowd
18 The raven
Lix Boltz & Rohit Mehta
19 The method not taken
Punya Mishra & Danah Henriksen
20 Old Magnum Opus
21 A Mid-Semesterâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Dream
Because I could not stop for Time
Blabberjocky on the fifth by Punya Mishra
‘Twas threeling and the graduent hoardes Bright minds lost a-maze Allflutter were fidgits on keygroves Aclickety clack in a daze. Beware of the Twitbook (albeit such fun!) The gifs atrance’d, for eyes to catch. Beware the inmail, your ebox not done. Interwebs? grad work?…there’s no match! Bereft of words, she took iPad in hand A coarse paper due, her nerves were fraught Alight she leapt, by 509 took her stand. With empty mind, nil, nothing, naught.
And as in blankrupt thought she stood, A posturing pedagogue shambled in Bombasted a piffle, as he would And left. Her time was running thin. The last hope was candy, a friend left behind It helped, the rush, The Snickersy snack! Her Vorpal pen was a sword in her mind The jargon jungle, she took to hack. And hast thou slain the writer’s block? Hail Zotero, a draft! The real McCoy! “O frabjous day! I beat the clock” She laughed and carolled in her joy. ‘Twas threeling and the graduent hoardes Bright minds lost a-maze Aflutter were fidgits on keygroves Aclickety clack in a daze.
Stopping by college on a snowy evening by Diana Campbell
Whose thoughts these are, I do not know. How came they to my paper though? My sleepless haze and writer’s fear Brought rambling words I soon must show. My little car must think it queer To find a parking spot so near. The Sparty’s closed. No coffee break All silent halls, this late of year. My prof will give his head a shake Clearly this paper’s some mistake Till then the only sound’s the sweep Of words lost in revisions wake.
A rest sounds lovely, dark and deep, But I have deadlines yet to keep, And drafts to go before I sleep. And drafts to go before I sleep.
Scholar’s Sonnet #18 by Danah Henriksen
Shall I describe our work in such a way? In stressful joys we see a scholar’s fate; The year’s deadlines do rush up unto May, And summer’s lease has all too short a date: Sometimes too bright the midnight candle shines And burns both ends until completely dimmed; And every editor our work declines, By chance, or since an article’s untrimmed; But all of teaching’s pleasures shall not fade Nor can we e’er forget our students’ best; Nor Boredom boast we wander in his shade, When constant learning doth create our nest; So long as people breathe and eyes can see, So long live minds, and thoughts give life to thee. 6
“Hope” is the thing that withers by Punya Mishra “Hope” is the thing that withers Goes down the rabbit hole And data dances without smiles The deadline was last fall And sadly - in the halls - is heard What patterns in this storm? These findings found, they are absurd Without shape or sense or form. Grads hear it in the research land, Drown in the data sea Making sense of quantity Asks far too much of me.
the arguments by Sandra Sawaya
all arguments start to come apart finally and there it is: just unsupported claims in prose or scribbles of hope between lines in the narrowing spaces. it is all assumption and weak frameworks and reasoning lost like coherence in stupor. when the draft fills with crimson you know that the draft is dead.
true ideation comes from true revulsion; when things get bad enough the writer will take back the writing. the books on shelves of my library and the men whose ideas wrote them if I could only take these and open their eyes and feel their weight and experience their furrowed minds say the true furrowed words. 11
Statement to Practicum by Rohit Mehta
How scrappy is the aimless writer’s block! The words forgetting, by the words forgot. Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind! Each idea accepted, but each page declin’d; Labour and rest, that equal periods keep; “Obedient student that can wake and weep;” Paradigms compos’d, methodologies ev’n, Methods that delight, and theories that’r soft to prov’n. Backlight shines upon her with serenest beams, And whisp’ring advisors prompt her golden dreams. For her th’ unfading prose of practicum blooms, And words of wisdom weave textual looms, For her the editor drafts the critical sting, For her the plastic MacBook’s ding, But to sounds of cravenly taps she dies away, And melts in visions of eternal day.
Tempore by Sandra Sawaya Out of many thoughts that make me, That take me down the rabbit hole I thank my committee that may be For reminding me of my goal. In case of bad luck and mischance I upload my work to the cloud. Under pressure my thoughts advance My draft is on its way, I vowed. Beyond the writing that coheres Looms the suggestions that will aid, And the defense that surely nears Finds my ideas strongly made. It matters not how soon the date, How marked with comments is the scroll, I will defend my thoughts conveyed, I will reach and attain my goal.
A Draft within a Draft by Danah Henriksen Take these words as I allow And in writing with you now, This much let us both avow — The work it is a careful craft And each stage another draft. Yet, if review does so delay For a night, or for a day In ten revisions, or in one, Writing’s process never done All that we write and craft Is but a draft within a draft. I stand amid the lure
Of a draft I could deem pure Yet I see within my gaze Words have begun to haze — As my thoughts undo and creep Have co-authors take the leap No need to weep - no need to weep! They’ll revise it and clasp These themes with a tighter grasp And so my draft I gave To good colleagues to help save For all that we write and craft Is but a draft within a draft. 16
Publication by April Niemela
What happens to a publication deferred? Does it deflate like last weekâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s balloon? Or trickle like an hourglass- Out too soon? Does it wither like an unwatered plant? Or burst and run over- like a politicianâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s rant?
Maybe it crumbles like a piece of bread.
Or is it dead?
The New Scholar of the Lot by Danah Henriksen Just aside the river lie Long halls where student teachers try, To teach and dream to meet the sky; And down Shaw Road the passersby See teachersâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; campus lot; And up and down the students go, Trodding where the fall leaves blow Round a building there below, Where learning canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t be bought. Fall skies darken, maples quiver, Campus breezes dusk and shiver And the current runs forever Through the deep Red Cedar River Flowing by mid-campus lot. Four gray walls, and four gray towers, Where each new construct empowers, And Erickson Hall imbowers The new scholar of the lot. 21
There she writes by night and day A research tome, in her own way She has heard a whisper say, A curse on her if she delay Since tenureâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s certain not. She knows just what the curse may be, And so she writeth steadily And little other care has she, Till tenure is her lot. And looking throâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; a window clear The students walk by all the year, Shadows of the world appear. There she sees the river near Winds through the campus lot. So the river eddy whirls, Through the place it onward curls, And the freshman boys and girls, Pass onward from the lot.
Yet in her writings she delights To weave the research in her sights, For often thro’ the silent nights Builds theories by fluorescent lights New writings to be sought. Though the moon was overhead, Her thoughts had finally found their thread. “My first full draft is done!” she said The new scholar of the lot. She left the draft, she left the room, Until caffeine she could consume And then revisions would resume, She saw her plans begin to bloom, Till tenure was her lot. She saw her work float far and wide; The field she crack’d from side to side; “The curse won’t come upon me!” cried The new scholar of the lot.
Because I could not stop for Time by Christine Greenhow Because I could not stop for Time It cruelly stopped for me; The in-air Macbook seizing up With dying battery. I cursed the tool; it knew no haste, And I had put away My power cord, in checked-in bag Far from Utility. We sat in silence, as others tapped Their workload getting done. We heard the click of keyboard keys. We heard promotions won.
We stalled, the plane descending now Still miles above the ground; The airport scarcely visible, The car park but a mound. Since then â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;tis hours; but each Feels calmer than the day I first survived the whole long ride Without technology.
O iPad! my iPad! by Day Greenberg & Spencer Greenhalgh O iPad! my iPad! our tasks are down to one, Your screen has shown me every page, the lit review is done, The weekend near, game chants I hear, the fans are all exulting, What follows? Just one email more, a message short and sparing; But O charge! charge! charge! O the power icon red, Now on the couch my iPad lies, Battery all dead. 26
O iPad! my iPad! charge up and show your screen; Charge up—for you the plug is plugged—I need just one last thing, For you a case and decals neat—for you a screen protector, If you’ll just wait, and help me write, a message to the rector Here iPad! dear tablet! Just that one note to Fred! It is some dream, I can’t believe Your battery’s gone dead. My iPad does not answer, its screen gone dim and black, It’s Apple! They don’t feel my pain, we just need Steve Jobs back The email’s written, and it’s gone, I’m off to watch the game I wrote it on my PC though, my iPad I will blame Exult O fans, and sound O horns! But I with mournful tread, Leave on the desk my iPad Air, Battery all dead.
O Captcha! My Captcha! by Matthew J. Koehler
O Captcha! My Captcha! our fateful trip is almost done; We stopped and now we are offtrack, to check what’s 1 + 1 The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting, We follow Google’s steady keel, our clicking brave and daring: But O stop! stop! stop! O the pop-up form we dread, Now enter these words with just 2 tries, “WvP4 Red”.
This Is Just To Say by Liz Boltz This is just to say I have eaten the things that were on the fifth floor and which you were probably saving for Ben Gleason Forgive me they were delicious so fishy and so odd
The red comment box
The White MacBook Pro
by Punya Mishra
by Rohit Mehta
so much depends upon
so much depends upon
a red comments box
a white macbook pro
annotations on revisions made
glazed with matte finish
beside the black prose
beside the blue post-its.
I wandered lonely in the crowd by Punya Mishra I wandered lonely in the crowd Floating through halls with little frills When all at once I heard a loud Burst of voices, loud with thrills So stopping quick then to explore I peeked on through the classroom door. With beaming faces, all a-shine They twinkle in a happy way They play at learning by design Engaged alight, that lovely day I saw a dozen at a glance Minds alive in delicate dance.
The maestro in front led the way Outdoing them in joy and glee A teacher could not but be gay Observing this charmed company I gazedâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;and gazedâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;but little thought What wealth the scene to me had brought: For sometimes on my couch I lie Down and seeking solitude That classroom flashes in my eye Bringing change to my dark mood And then my heart with pleasure fills And dances with the daffodils. 35
The raven by Liz Boltz & Rohit Mehta
Once upon a midnight dreary, while I graded, weak and weary Over many a quaint and curious paper of educational chore, I tracked changes, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping, As of someone softly rapping, rapping at my office door. “’Tis some undergrad,” I muttered, “tapping at my office door - only this, and nothing more.” Presently my heart grew stronger; hesitating then no longer, “Sir,” said I, “or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore; But the fact is I was napping, and so softly you came rapping, And so primly you came tapping, tapping at my office door, That I scarce was sure I heard you” -- here I opened wide the door; - He lurked, and sat, nothing more.
Then this random dude beguiled my sad fancy into smiling, By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance he wore, “With thy stubble shorn and shaven, thou,” I said, “art sure no craven, “Ghastly grim this visage graven wandering from the Nightly shore-Tell me what thy lordly name is on Night’s Ericksonian shore!” Quoth the student “Nevermore.” Then, methought the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer Swung by angels whose faint foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor. “Wretch,” I cried, “Ed psych scholars, they have lent thee and I know their words have sent thee” But I beg respite and nepenthe from the memories of the fifth floor! Let me quaff this kind nepenthe, and forget this lost fifth floor!” Quoth the student, “Nevermore.” “Disturbance!” said I, “thing of evil!--disturbance still, if not a devil! By that KIVA that bends above us--by that Sparty’s we adoreTell this soul with sorrow laden if, within my office haven, Let me hear some Iron Maiden on the table on fifth floor-Hear a rare yet Iron Maiden on the table on fifth floor.” Quoth the student “Nevermore.”
“Be that word our sign of parting, nerd or fiend!” I shrieked, upstarting-“Get thee back to thy advisor and Night’s Ericksonian shore! Leave no rough drafts as a token of that lie thy mind hath spoken! Leave my solitude unbroken!--quit the printer near my door! Take thy geek from out my heart, and take thy paper off my door! Quoth the student “Nevermore.” And this student, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting Near the old dot matrix printer wheezing near my office door; And his eyes have all the seeming of a student that is dreaming, Light from laptop o’er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor; And my brain from out this shadow that lies scattered on the floor Shall be lifted--nevermore!
The method not taken by Punya Mishra & Danah Henriksen Two methods diverged, as my committee would And sorry I could not accept both And be one scholar, long I stood Glimpsed my career as far I could Looking for the deepening truth; Then judged each method, to be fair And seeking perhaps, a richer domain Because it was messy and deeper there Though academics had stripped them bare Each seeking to make the stronger claim. And at that meeting both equal lay Thus in debate there was no lack Whatever each would try to say Each deemed their own the sole right way Once chosen, thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s no turning back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh Somewhere at a proposal defense Two methods diverged, as they would and I Chose one to take, Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m not sure why And that has made all the difference.
Old Magnum Opus by April Niemela
Aye, tear her tattered schema down Long has it borne the force Of many a discussion deep That herald of discourse Within her rested many views Theories she carefully bore, The standard of the scholar’s shelf Shall breach debate no more Her page, once blued with scholar’s ink, Where scribbled forth the pen, When we weren’t reading Daniel Pink, But Dweck, Deci and Ryan No more shall take the theory’s test Or know philosophy The plebeians of pop culture Replace too easily.
Oh, better that her shattered bulk Should be engulfed in blaze Her research shook the fires of drive They’ll burn her pyre unfazed. Scrawl on the front her final year Set sparks, let embers fly And give her to the Sage of Thought Then let it go, and sigh!
A Mid-Semester’s Dream by Danah Henriksen If we bookworms have offended, Think but this and all is mended, That you have but slumbered here While these poems did appear. And this weak and idle theme, Not much better than a meme. Highbrows, do not reprehend: If you pardon, we will mend. From our poems we hope you pluck Simple thoughts and unearned luck Now we’ve shared our little song, We will make amends ere long; Though we think our lapse be small ‘Twas to bring a laugh to all. Give us your hands, so we be friends, And our venture never ends. [Exit stage.]
Photo/Image Credits Punya Mishra: Front/Back/ Inside Cover; Ivory tower logo; Photo facing page with starting quotes; Pages ii-iii; v, vi, viii; xi; xiii; Photo facing page with Blabberjocky on the fifth; Pages 3; 5; 7; 11; 12; 14; 26; 28; 31; 33; 34; 36; 39; 40; 41; 44; 46; 49; 50; 52; Facing page with final quote Matthew Koehler: Photo facing Preface; Pages 8; 17; 18; 43 Leigh Wolf: Photo with Dedication; Pages 25; 54 Shreya Mishra: Page 20
The Original Inspirations »» Blabberjocky on the fifth—Jabberwocky: Lewis Carroll »» Stopping by college on a snowy evening —Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening: Robert Frost »» Scholar’s Sonnet #18—Sonnet 18: William Shakespeare »» “Hope” is the thing that withers— “Hope” is the thing with feathers: Emily Dickinson »» the arguments—the people: Charles Bukowski »» Statement to Practicum—Eloisa to Abelard: Alexander Pope »» Tempore—Invictus: William Ernest Henley »» A Draft within a Draft—A Dream within a Dream: Edgar Allen Poe »» Publication—Harlem: Langston Hughes »» The New Scholar of the Lot—The Lady of Shalott: Alfred Tennyson »» Because I could not stop for Time—Because I could not stop for Death: Emily Dickinson »» O iPad! my iPad! & O Captcha! My Captcha!—O Captain! My Captain!: Walt Whitman »» This is Just To Say—This Is Just To Say: Williams Carlos Williams »» The red comment box & The White MacBook Pro—The Red Wheelbarrow: William Carols Williams »» I wandered lonely in the crowd—I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud: William Wordsworth »» The raven—The Raven: Edgar Allen Poe »» The method not taken—The Road Not Taken: Robert Frost »» Old Magnum Opus—Old Ironsides: Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. »» A Mid-Semester’s Dream—A Midsummer Night’s Dream: William Shakespeare 53
Tech Talk This book was laid out and designed using Adobe InDesign on a MacBook Pro. The original poems were collaboratively written using Google Docs. The covers were designed in Apple Keynote. Minor photo editing of the images was done in Photoshop. Layout and design by Punya Mishra with some help from Danah Henriksen.
“In the land of Gibberish, the man who makes sense, the man who speaks clearly, clearly speaks nonsense.” ― Jarod Kint
This page unintentionally left blank