Sunday, May 04, 2008

Strained looks of adolescent misery

James Atlas, in "Summer Memories of Egghead Camps" in the collection Sleepaway: Writers on Summer Camp:

"The following day, I registered for classes: 'Creative Writing: Poetry' and 'The Art of the Short Story.' My poetry instructor was a sad-faced man with thinning hair who wore an ascot and was said to be going through a divorce.  He liked to read aloud from Yeats in a delicate, musical voice.  Whenever he was particularly moved by a poem, he would look from the volume in his hand - The Oxford Book of English Verse - and say, 'Now, if anyone here could write like that, I'd be happy.'  Still, he was polite about our work, though seldom effusive --  a measured response, given the self-indulgent confessions we were turning out. Often, as I sat by the window listening to the incessant chirp and whir of crickets on the summer fields while some girl with a strained look on her face aloud a poem laden with adolescent misery, I longed to be back in Wisconsin playing Capture the Flag."