Painting by Pieter Isaacsz (1569-1625)‘The Composition Teacher Addresses His Class’ by Joseph S. Salemi The Society May 6, 2018 Culture, For Educators, Poetry 13 Comments When naming things, you have to use a noun; A verb shows action or a state of being. An adjective describes—that is, marks down The qualities of objects that you’re seeing. An adverb tells you how, or else how soon A deed is done—say, “painfully” or “fast.” When placed with adjectives they help fine-tune Descriptive force, like “absolutely gassed.” A pronoun takes the place of proper names Or else alludes to antecedent things. A preposition points, and always frames The noun or noun-linked phrase to which it clings. A participle emanates from verbs And functions as a hybrid in good diction. It can take past or present form, and serves To add a tense-based nuance to depiction. Conjunctions tie together words and clauses; They also can disjoin by act of scission. Like plus and minus signs, they marshal forces For union, separation, or division. An article is just an honorific You put before some nouns so we’ll discern Whether your focus on them is specific Or just a passing glance of unconcern. An interjection is a mere effusion— A word you blurt out from your guts or heart In rage, joy, spite, emotional confusion… It stands alone, syntactically apart. These are the parts of speech that make up discourse, At least for folks in literacy’s fold. So if you’re hoping to get by in this course Don’t give me any backtalk—learn them cold. Joseph S. Salemi has published five books of poetry, and his poems, translations and scholarly articles have appeared in over one hundred publications world-wide. He is the editor of the literary magazine Trinacria. He teaches in the Department of Humanities at New York University and in the Department of Classical Languages at Hunter College. 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Reply David Paul Behrens May 6, 2018 It must be magnificent to be a literary scholar, a fine teacher and a great poet, as well. Outstanding! Reply Fr. Richard Libby May 6, 2018 I enjoyed this very much, Mr. Salemi, and I agree with Mrs. Foreman: students should have to learn this poem. If a student memorizes and understands this poem, there’s no reason for him not to do well in English class! Reply James A. Tweedie May 6, 2018 How I wish I had been fortunate to have had a teacher like Dr. Salemi. I am sorely tempted to move to the east coast and register for one of his classes at Hunter College. I learned more of grammar from this poem than I learned in all my years of education combined. A poem able to teach something as mundane as English grammar while managing to be entertaining is quite an accomplishment. The poem led me to consider how a student might respond to such instruction: What Came Next “Wow!” declared the student, interjecting. “Grammar has so many dots that need connecting.” “You mention dots,” replied the course professor. “Like diamonds on the crown of Edward the Confessor Iotas, jots and tittles frame the text And keep the reader from being overly perplexed. The smallest dots when properly employed Re-frame and shape the words so they can be enjoyed. They steer the reader to that sacred spot Where he or she can comprehend the author’s thought. Periods, commas, colons, and the rest Can give prosaic phrases literary zest. But if misused, one dot most miniscule Can earn an author well-deserved ridicule. A dash, quotation marks, parentheses Ellipsis, hyphens, and (of course) apostrophes Are often used, and useful when used fairly But exclamation marks should only be used rarely. So, if you want a world-class education, You first must learn to master proper punctuation.” Reply C.B. Anderson May 6, 2018 I was going to ask for a follow-up poem about punctuation, but Mr. Tweedie anticipated me. Far too much poetry is infected with wrenched diction and improper punctuation, two things that should have been left behind in grammar school composition assignments. One thing that I admire about you, Joe, is that you always practice what you preach. And it’s pretty clear that you don’t believe in participation trophies. Reply Amy Foreman May 7, 2018 No participation trophies, but I’ll bet he gives out an occasional participle trophy! 😉 Reply David Hollywood May 7, 2018 Very enjoyable.Thank you. Reply David Watt May 7, 2018 I wish we had instruction this entertaining when I learnt English grammar! Deserving of a permanent place in the curriculum. Reply James Sale May 8, 2018 There always seems to be with Joseph Salemi a certain clarity of thought that arises from his poetical disquisitions; which is impressive, as poetry can too easily (though sometimes, rightly) be ambiguous, and worse, incoherent. Here, truly, is someone who says what they mean and means what they say. Very good indeed. Reply Joseph S. Salemi May 8, 2018 Thank you all for your kind comments. They are deeply appreciated. Reply Leave a Reply to James Sale Cancel ReplyYour email address will not be published.CommentName* Email* Website Notify me of follow-up comments by email. Notify me of new posts by email. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.