Found Poem: 35 Years Later, The English Professor Tries to Change My Grade
Dear Ms. Nemec Foster:
As I clean and clear my office for someone new
to occupy, I think how the years have gotten away
from me. I think how long it has taken me to write
this letter, even though I suspect “word-of-mouth”
may have reached you about my attempt to change your grade.
The results of my attempt could not be facilitated.
All the past college records have been transferred to plastic.
It would require an earthquake to summon up those files
and then with some type of white-out to erase the file
and then insert a new grade. Suffice it to say, it was impossible.
So for your endurance and for your perseverance and for your
continuing service to poetry, I admit I judged you too harshly.
You have gone on to produce fine work; that is what many students
fail to do because of the odds before them. The trick is not
to give up on one’s imagination; the trick is not to abandon
one’s sense of vision and inspiration. John Ciardi, my teacher
and mentor, used to say a poem came from 10% inspiration
and 90% perspiration. Technique and sense is what we do
with the ten percent which comes out of nowhere. So, for all
my errors, I offer you this letter with a Superior A inside.
I also have to wonder what happened to those early poems?
And what grade would you assign to them presently? Save this
letter and sell it to the highest bidder, saying that judgments
are almost always subjective. We judge what we understand,
to paraphrase Marianne Moore’s famous dictum in “Poetry.”
I wish you continued success as you continue to make poetry
a vital force in your life, a vital force in your community.
It is a first-rate gift. And always remember: the act of making
a poem is to touch many vicariously that we may never meet.
Again my sincere apologies, Herbert Woodward Martin.