1. In the Intro to Poetry class today, we ended our unit of study on poems about love and sex. I tried to theatrically and poetically bring "Valediction: Forbidding Mourning" alive and help the students see that it's not only 20th and 21st century rappers who get into rhyming rivalries, who answer one another's stuff, but it was true in the 16th and 17th century, too. The contests of wit took on a different look in the Metaphyscal Poetry, but it was fun (well, for me it was fun) to look at Donne's ingenious argument and his witty use of metaphor in this poem.
2. We also read some poetry that was, I guess you'd say, anti-"Valediction: Forbidding Mourning". The speaker of Donne's poem claims that his and his wife's love is so rare and spiritual that hands,lips, eyes -- that is the body, senses -- don't matter. Well. The body sure matters to the lovers in Dorianne Laux's poems and I thought it was great fun letting Laux move us through the ecstatic experience of the body the women in her poem's enjoy -- biting, eating, forming a fist, pounding on a pillow -- as Laux explores the body's thoughts, the body's knowledge, stuff Donne persona seemed sadly oblivious to. The poems? "This Close", "Afterwards", and "The Lovers".
3. We also spent quite a bit of time looking at Sharon Olds' erotic spiritual poem, "The Knowing". It was as if the persona of "Valediction" joined with the women's sensuality in Laux's poems, and the woman lover in this poem tells her story of physical ecstasy in union with being spiritually transported by what she experiences in her monogamous, marital, sexual relationship with her husband. Time and space cannot contain the length, depth, and breadth of her ecstasy at being with her husband. It's a rare, elegant, passionate poem of the body and spirit.