In society today, the importance of poems and the popularity of them are decreasing. Less people are reading and writing these pieces; but after reading my 2002 volume of Best American Poetry, I came to realize that poems should still be read and interpreted by all. High School students, especially, can learn from and relate to these poems, and should be required to read a number of them. My partner and I chose to reflect upon three poems that we think should be read by High School students because of their message and writing style: “Perfect Front Door” By Steve Malmude, “Reunion” By Louise Gluck, “Self-Portrait With Critic” By Ira Sadoff.
Steve Malmude’s “Perfect Front Door” tells the story of someone watching the world go by around him from his apartment, and evaluating how he truly spends his time. Steve Malmude himself would often sit in his doorstep, listening to all the noises outside go on. Although these noises did distract him, he uses the sounds to daydream about being outside the house. In this poem, he tries to convey the message of evaluating your time, and if the way you spend your time is going to be helpful for you in the long run. He wants the reader to understand that work is necessary to enjoy life, and the more you work the more you can enjoy the time that you have off. This is relatable for High School students especially, as time progresses we struggle to continue to work hard and go to school. It is important to understand that the work we put in will eventually benefit us in the future, and will help to create better opportunities for ourselves in the long run. In the poem, he feels the “cool night air from the open door” outside tempting him, but he continues to work, as we should. As students, we are faced with many distractions that try and limit our studies, but it is necessary to learn how to block them out, and understand what is truly important.
The next poem, Louise Gluck’s “Reunion,” has a message that is relatable to most. She discusses the relationship between two people, and how it was able to evolve over time. Two people, a man and a woman, were originally very close, but were separated for 20 years. Most would expect that after this long period of time, if reunited, they would lack similarities and be unable to connect like they used to. Despite the popular opinion, they reconnect, and “it is discovered they like each other, despite enormous differences (one a psychiatrist, one a city official).” They had gone on with their lives, being exposed to new things and living different lives, however deep down they were both the same person that they were twenty years prior. This poem is very relatable, especially being a High School senior. Most of us are going to go off to college, and go our separate ways, not seeing each other for a long stretch of time, or even ever again. Eventually, though, I am sure some will meet back up, reminiscing on the times they had in High School. I think it is important for students to understand that a period of separation does not mean nothing will ever be the same again. Things, and places will change, but the person you are deep down may not, and therefore it is possible to have an even better connection with someone you knew when you were young.
The final poem that I think students should study is “Self-Portrait With Critic” By Ira Sadoff. This poem, like the others, has a message that appeals to students in High School, and can relate to struggles that many would be exposed to. This poem talks about someone who is constantly judged based on his appearance, and is always assumed to be someone that he is really not. It really frustrates him, as he says “One idiot took me for a Vietnam vet. He said I have that tattooed damaged look.” In High School, many people struggle with their identity, and who they are. People are commonly judged based off of their appearance, and are just automatically assumed to be something based off of what they look like. It is an important message, and an important idea for people to understand and relate to.
I believe that all three of these poems should be read and talked about in High School. All of them have relatable messages and are able to appeal to the reader through their imagery and message. They all reflect the era we live in, in their own way.