“A Primer” Discussion

So my time has come to lead discussion, and I don’t know about you guys, but I think a little break from reading articles would be refreshing. For that reason, I decided to change the reading for my discussion from The History of the Croissant (which is still an awesome article, if you want to read it) to a poem that has been one that I go back to read time and time again. Its called “A Primer” by Bob Hicok.

This poem means a lot to me. I have a sentimental attachment to it like it’s a tangible material item, much like the way I feel about my favorite old ratty teeshirt. My first encounter with it was at our family Christmas gathering three years ago when my godmother, Lynne Rae Perkins (an awesome author herself) read it aloud at the party. Maybe it was the rum and eggnog, or maybe just my deep love for my home state, but at the time it really struck a cord. It has stayed with me ever since.

“A Primer” is a poem by Bob Hicok, a poet who has taught creative writing at Western Michigan University and Virginia Tech.  It was written for The New York Times in 2008, as a dedication to his state of origin. I would suspect that it would be particularly appealing to someone like me, who also was born in raised in Michigan. However, since all of us live in Michigan currently, I think we can all relate to the poem. I also think that anyone who reads it could at least appreciate the meditative simplicity of Hicok’s words and understand the picture of Michigan that he verbally paints.

Here are my instructions:

Read the poem once. And then read it again. I don’t think that poetry should ever be read just once. So much can be missed in the initial read. I don’t know about you, but sometimes the first time I read something, I retain almost nothing.

As  you read the poem, consider what it makes you think, wonder, and feel (NOT what it means, that’s a fruitless exercise in my humble opinion). What do you think he chose the title “A Primer?” Write those thoughts down.

In our conversation, I would like to unpack this poem, along with considering the role that poetry plays in our world. Think about what poetry means to you. Do you like it? Dislike it? Never read it? Why do you think The New York Times chooses to have an entire section called “Poems”?

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