Polemics & Exchanges

Making Poetry Great Again

Please let this note serve as a belated acknowledgement that Dr. Allen Frederick Stein’s poem “Ralph Waldo Emerson Meets John Brown,” which appeared in the January issue, served as an enlightening study tool for 65 of my students at Warren Hills Regional High School in northern New Jersey during the recently concluded school year.  Several of my English language-arts classes studied the ten-stanza poem over two class periods.  Then they, along with two history classes, packed into our school library for a 50-minute, face-to-face, electronic hookup with the poem’s author.  Dr. Stein read and explained the poem to us before accepting numerous questions regarding his knowledge of the history of 18th-century American Transcendentalism and his usage of specific poetic devices.

In early January, when I found Dr. Stein’s poetry in the pages of Chronicles, I had been seeking a unique way to illustrate to my College Preparatory American Literature sophomores the negative side of Transcendentalism’s belief in the natural goodness of humanity; our textbook had ignored the unfavorable aspects of this branch of American Romanticism in favor of mostly the positive.  “Ralph Waldo Emerson Meets John Brown” was the answer to my dilemma.

Thank you for the spark of opportunity that enabled me to extend the intellectually deeper meanings of American culture to the students of our rural county.  Most had never heard a published poet read his own verse, so I especially wish to thank Dr. Stein for taking the time to bridge, through modern technology, a distance of more than 500 miles to meet with a group of academically hungry students.

        —Andrew A. Oakley
Washington, NJ

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