Thanks to Mrs. Mease
Thanks to Mrs. Mease
Mrs. Meese was my 5th grade teacher back in my home town of Ft. Wayne, Indiana. She was quite old then and I understand that she lived to be 100. She was an old fashioned teacher who knew how to control a classroom that contained lots of disruptive 10 and 11 year old boys; her technique was poetry. The terror of poetry.
Everyone was required to memorize and recite a total of 1000 lines of poetry over a semester. Not all at once, but you had to be ready with some poetry when she called on you. It struck terror into those young hearts. There were lots of tears as kids forgot lines while their peers looked on with glee. Boys of that age are really good at making noises without being noticed; many budding ventriloquists were in the audience. A good disguised burp or moan at the right moment could cause many of the young girls to lose their place in Longfellow’s Evangeline. It was a tough crowd.
As I recall, you were allowed to pick your own poetry, but Evangeline seemed to be the only poem available in Ft. Wayne. I glanced at it long enough to gain the motivation to find other poetry. I took the risky move of sneaking unnoticed into the Public Library and boldly asked for the poetry section. None of my buddies saw me; they were mostly down throwing rocks in the river.
Not many 10 year old guys had ventured into the poetry section and I wanted to make this a quick visit. My theory on poetry books was simple: thin ones were ok and thick ones were a problem. I grabbed a thin one. It was a volume by Ogden Nash. “If you hear the call of a panther, don’t anther.” Wow, that was easy. Only 998 more lines to go. I checked out two of his books and went to work.
When it came my time to recite in public, I was ready. They wanted to destroy me but they loved it. “Hey Dave, way to go!” “More, more!” I think I did two recitals before all the other guys wanted to do Ogden Nash, too. Of course, Mrs. Meese caught on by then and explained to me that Ogden Nash was not “real” poetry.
But I learned to love having an audience, the bigger the better. The tougher the better.
I want to thank Mrs. Meese for terrorizing me with poetry.