Tuesday, May 21, 2019

A Meditation on Stringing Words Together: The National’s “Roman Holiday” | radical eyes for equity

A Meditation on Stringing Words Together: The National’s “Roman Holiday” | radical eyes for equity

A Meditation on Stringing Words Together: The National’s “Roman Holiday”


I’m still standing in the same place where you left me standing
For those of us who love words and fall deeply in love with authors and pop music performers, few things are as exciting as new works. I listened for the first time to The National’s I Am Easy to Find on the release day during a long drive.
The first song, “You Had Your Soul with You,” had already been released so my rush happened on the second song, “Quiet Light,” when I felt the urge to cry before the lyrics even began.
And by the seventh song, the titular “I Am Easy to Find,” I couldn’t hold back no longer, crying steadily as I drove. There is something uniquely powerful about the combination of beautiful music and beautiful words strung together in a way that make your heart ache.
As an English teacher for about two decades during the first half of my career, I was always searching for an effective way to teach poetry well. Students tended not to like poetry but also had very narrow and mistaken associations with poetry—poetry rhymes, for example, and being overly concerned with what poems mean.

It probably seems trite, but I did find that investigating poetry—asking, what makes poetry, poetry?—combined with starting with pop music song lyrics helped allay student antagonism toward what I consider a beautiful and powerful form of human expression.
Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, I grounded my poetry unit in the music of R.E.M. Although I now mainly teach education and writing courses, I continue to think as an English teacher—especially in terms of applying reading like a writer to text such as song lyrics to inform how we read and write well.
Especially with the rise of close reading, driven by the mostly now defunct Common Core, many formal lessons focusing on analyzing text remains trapped in false notions that meaning is restricted to the parameters of the text, words strung together on the page.
“I’m your hospital, I’m your silver cross,” opens The National’s “Roman Holiday,” preparing the listener for how to unpack these metaphors, but also confronting the arguments of close reading that meaning is a CONTINUE READING: A Meditation on Stringing Words Together: The National’s “Roman Holiday” | radical eyes for equity

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