A while back I came across an article about a 1st grader’s poem that is allegedly so deep and mystifying that it has captured the hearts of the most literaturey and poemy of literary professionals.
Somehow this has captured the attention of literary critics who are praising it for its depth. The one quote from the article that made me face palm is this: “I loved it! It captured the truth about personal space. The misspellings make it more primal and deliberate. At the end there’s an epiphany about dancing and what that means.”
This, my friends, is why I didn’t study literature. A wealthy majority of discussions are pure speculation about what the author means. If you find this kid and ask him what he meant by the poem, I guarantee you he’s not going into this long dissertation about the intricate world we create around us and how the movement of our bodies, the way the wind moves over our skin as we “swrl,” creates this orb of personal space.
No, the kid will say “The teacher made us write a poem about personal space.” The only thing I give this kid credit for is knowing something as abstract as personal space since nothing under 10 years old has any concept of personal space. I also question how this kid knows how to spell “personal,” but not “music,” “listened,” “around,” or “danced.” I knew how to spell all of these words when I was 4. Granted, I was a prodigy at age 4. Then Pokemon happened.
But the point is this: Just because the little snot spelled stuff wrong and then made a random connection at the end does not mean this kid in a poetic genius. I would even go so far as to challenge that this kid started writing about dancing then realized at the end the poem was supposed to be about personal space and wrote that line at the end. I can comfortably say this because I teach college freshman who do this exact thing – they write an entire paper about something ridiculous and then make a vague connection at the end to what they were originally supposed to be writing about.
But the people that are praising this kid for his poem are likely the same people that stare at a painting done by a chimpanzee slinging his paint-covered wiener against a canvas and call it art. And maybe I’m too much of a traditionalist. Maybe I enjoy structure. But it’s not art. It’s a painting, but it’s not art. Just like this kid’s poem is just a poem – it isn’t a work of creative genius.