At the turn of the 21st century, 2000, I discovered my love for poetry. I was enrolled in Ramaz Upper School, in 10th grade, and turning sixteen. I explored the universe with Walt Whitman and his Learned Astronomer. William Carlos William gave me an appreciation for the every day riding around his Red Wheelbarrow. Whenever I was sad, I flew on the wings of Emily Dickinson with a hope for the future. And I even visited Xanadu with Kubla Kahn and Sam Coleridge. I wanted to share this magic with my friends and fellow students at school, so I summoned Arthur O’Shaughnessy to create an Ode and started an after school Poetry club.
Ramaz had all sorts of after school clubs, but none celebrated the lyrical and magical world of words. As president and founder of the poetry club, I selected the poems and led the discussions. We had a faculty advisor, a lovely man named Dr. David Berman, who helped lead the club. Getting members was challenging, but I would put up posters promoting the club to the other kids at school. To make the medium more accessible, we even selected some modern poets and read Dave Matthew’s lyrics, because kids liked that stuff and I knew it would bring them to the club. It worked and suddenly Ramaz had a weekly after school club with 20 members who were reading and discussing poetry.
One of my favorite poets is William Blake. In April 2001, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, undoubtedly one of the best museums in the world, home to the treasures of history, held an exhibit of William Blake’s work.
The exhibit included an incredible wood printing of an illustration of Blake’s masterpiece The Songs of Innocence and of Experience.
Ramaz is on 78th street between Park Avenue and Madison Avenue. The Met is on 5th Avenue and 81st street. I had already seen the exhibit as the Met is free. I wanted to share it with the Poetry club and decided to plan a field trip. What better way to celebrate the coming of the spring in New York City than taking a lunch time stroll three blocks to the Met to see the William Blake exhibit, I thought.
You would think that a school would be supportive of such an endeavor. In theory, kids go to school to learn. The job of a school is to educate kids. In reality, schools only are interested in subjecting students to their specific and exact idea of education. Anything that does not conform to their notion of knowledge is disallowed. I knew this and I knew that my fantasy of a Poetry club field trip to the Met would unmask this charade. So here’s what I did.
My girlfriend and I made invitations for the faculty of the school to join the Poetry club’s field trip the the Met for the William Blake exhibit. She’s an artist and was able to hand calligraphy a beautiful note to each teacher. We signed the invitations and placed one in each faculty mailbox.
And that is how it came to be that Ramaz, my high school, explicitly disallowed a trip to a museum to see the artwork and poetry of William Blake. As a punishment to me personally, Ramaz disbanded the Poetry club.