Today is apparently “National Poetry Day.” That made me think of the best class I ever had. It was called “Alternative Voices in American Literature.” Mr. Paul Perrone taught it. This is not a knock on every other teacher I ever had, but if every American could take that class with Mr. Perrone, this country would be far better off.
No class ever changed me as much as that did. It shook me out of my bubble and showed me the world around me. And Mr. Perrone was an absolute delite. He’s fiesty and funny, brilliant and bold.
Part of one of the classes I’m taking deals with the fear teachers have to battle with. It seemed like Mr. Perrone didn’t have an ounce of fear in him. He was a master of the subject. He was a master of classroom management.
Anyway, our textbook was “Unsettling America,” a collection of poems from a diverse selection of poets.
I don’t know if he selected this poem or if it was one of my fellow students, but when we were done reading this short, potent poem, Mr. Perrone just said,”Wow.”
When I first read the poem, I thought it was kind of trite and pompous. But I warmed to it quickly.
The cadence is powerful. And the message comes across in just 39 words.
It’s become one of my two favorite poems, after “The Raven.”
I think all of my siblings had Mr. Perrone. I know some of them can still recite the poems he assigned. Amazingly, he’s still teaching at Penn State. For that, the world is lucky.