“Martha, how can you tell if a song is a poem?”
“I just take away the music and read the words. If it works without the music, then, maybe it’s a poem.”
It was an ESL class on literature. My students were enthusiastic and participative. It was a great class. Believe me. We’d just played “We Will Rock You.”
“Is that poetry, Martha?”
“Uh, try my stragedy.”
“Martha, you read it. You know how poetry in English is supposed to be,” said a Japanese girl.
“All right.” I picked up the liner from the cassette and started to read in a serious, poetical voice, ‘We will, we will, rock you. We WILL, we WILL rock YOU. We will, we will, ROCK you!”
“NOT poetry, definitely NOT poetry,” said a Swiss guy. “It’s a good song, though.”
“Music makes a difference.”
But it isn’t all about the music and the lyrics. Sometimes it’s the setting.
Years later, Tony the Treeman was up at the top of a very tall dead (and possibly rotten) oak tree in my front yard. Tony the Treeman was a complete nutcase, but lovable. His Mexican friend and assistant (who spoke no English as Tony spoke no Spanish) was running the boom truck that had carried Tony and his chainsaw up to the top.
So the chainsaw chainsawed and inside the house I worried. Getting the top down was always the hardest and scariest part of a tree job, and I LIKED Tony, even though he HAD shown me the scar from his motorcycle accident, a gruesome, knotted crevasse of pink that ran from his knee to his groin (an image I’ll never forget).
Then, the chainsaw stopped. The boom truck engine was silent. I was in a sudden cold sweat. WHAT happened? I’d heard no screams. I went outside and there was Tony having successfully cut the first 5 feet off the top of the tree. He was hanging on by a harness, LARGE chainsaw in the air, holding onto the tree with his free hand, singing his barbaric yawp.
“We are the champions, we are the champions, we are the champions of the WORLD!!!!”