Sunday, July 15, 2007

I Have Heard the Mermaids Singing

"I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.
I do not think that they will sing to me."
-T.S. Eliot (1888-1965) "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock"

In a Free Range Librarian post, K.G. Schneider quotes Michael L. Kamil, a professor of education at Stanford University, who insists that "children need to learn to read for information, something they can practice while reading on the Internet, for example.” Schneider's obvious scorn for this perspective is echoed and expanded by David Rothman, who warns of "Babbittry". He reminds educators "why narrative counts" even in the business world, that good authors display an understanding of human nature which is valuable for interaction in all areas of life.

The love of literature and language, it seems, is to be largely replaced by factual data and statistics, with, perhaps, a few perky IM abbreviations thrown in. AWHFY (Are We Having Fun Yet?)

Is there room in our world for Gerard Manley Hopkins' imagery and sprung rhythm?
"As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame;
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell's
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name"

Poet Mary Oliver celebrates "An Afternoon in the Stacks"
and remarks on the power of literature:
"When this book ends
I will pull it inside-out like a sock
and throw it back in the library. But the rumor
of it will haunt all that follows in my life.
A candleflame in Tibet leans when I move."

Should all the richness of symbolism, allegory, allusion
be supplanted by the cold, clear voice of logic and rationality?

We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown
-T.S. Eliot

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