Theme for English 1B
With apologies to Langston Hughes

by Jerry Mansfield




I assigned a paper a little while back.
Now it's here, in this huge stack.
Thesis, support, have a nice day
and for God's sake, don't forget MLA.

I wonder if it's that simple?
as Hughes once asked from the other side.
I am 42, graying, born in Tennessee.
I am the only redneck in my class.
The road from school leads to my apartment
where I climb the stairs, up to my room, and read your paper.

I've read many already and my comments
sound like a bipolar wine connoisseur.
Things like "Decidedly vapid, yet oddly unsatisfying"
and "Boldly uninspired, yet refreshingly banal."
But for you, I rally, and grab a fresh pen.

Overall this is quite first rate.
Your thesis (praise the gods of rhetoric, you have one)
That the author is drawn to the very thing that frightens her
is intriguing in its scope and ambition.
However, there are times in which your prose...
its sheer opacity...leaves me groping in the fog.
As in the third paragraph when you write,
"This is apparent when she unintentionally manufactures a character that captures the simplicity of his immaturity and predates the essence of an earlier era, an era which necessitates that a young boy must ultimately endure the maturation process in solitude."

I don't write "delightfully nebulous, yet alarmingly impenetrable"
because I remember I have rallied
and because while you rarely speak in class,
you at least nod your head and look pleasant occasionally.

Your assertion in paragraph 4 that claims Plath was
"not yet disestablished in her preternatural awareness"
is problematic. (I daresay I would've said it differently,
or rather, not said it at all)
And therein likes the problem, though Hughes said
student and teacher are parts of each other,
you are ultimately...and inescapably ... 
yourself and not me.

This is your theme for English 1B.