Spiral – by Karen

27 Oct

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

That’s from a poem called The Second Coming, by WB Yeats, and it is in all honesty, the first thing that sprung to mind when I read this week’s topic. I think that goes to show how deeply highschool imprinted its texts on my brain. If you told me a poem today, or no, let’s update that, if I were flicking between ten tabs on my web browser, and my Google reader were open in one of them, and one of my RSS feeds happened to quote a poem, and I scanned that part of the post before moving on to the next tab…. well, I would probably not be recalling that poem fifteen years from now.

Woah, fifteen years.

Reading again, that is one absolute cracker of a poem. And it brings back memories of 3 Unit English, and indeed 2 Unit English, both of which were taught by a cracker of a woman, Mrs Grimm. I believe I may once have blogged about her before, perhaps on my Livejournal (since we’re being sentimental), but she bears repeating. This is a woman who I believe was in her sixties, but with a figure that proudly looked a trim 40, who every day took a train from her no doubt rocking Redfern pad to godforsaken Pennant Hills (40 mins), walked the 20 minutes from the station with a spring in every step, and proceeded to PASSIONATELY lay down the literature for a bunch of prudish, pimpled, unimagining embryonics such as I was. Whether they were crippled by shyness or bursting with teenage bolshevism, this woman actually cared about each of her students, I have not a doubt in my mind about that to this day, and actually thought it was important to teach English literature to them. At the end of our year she carefully chose a line from Shakespeare as a gift for each student. Astonishing to recollect.

At the time though, the most striking thing about her was her obsession with sex. Much like Tabitha, she saw sexual innuendo in everything, but she relished it in a way that I’m not sure Tabitha ever has in front of a class full of teenagers. Heather and I used to go into transports of hysteria over her manifestos on the true meaning of the swan’s “feathered glory” in Leda and the Swan (really?? a feathery penis?), but like me, Heather must have been touched in some deeper way as she ended up naming her daughter Leda.

I did hear later that Mrs Grimm died of cancer, so she won’t be around to read my blog, but I am very happy that even my teenaged self had the sense to thank her with a gift and heartfelt card at the end of that year. In those intense and intensely bored years, she was one of the few figures who contributed something epic to my small suburban life. I hope I can do the same for some other pained and peinlich teen one day.


11 Responses to “Spiral – by Karen”

  1. Tabitha October 27, 2011 at 2:23 pm #

    Christ, that’s an incredible poem. Really gives me the heebie jeebies, actually.

    I’m glad you were able to appreciate Mrs Grimm (great name) at the time. I never exhibited such maturity, instead believing myself above pretty much all my teachers. The very picture of Peinlich. German really does have all the best words, doesn’t it?

  2. Karen October 28, 2011 at 6:51 am #


    • Tabitha October 28, 2011 at 6:53 am #

      OMG, is that like “hand sock”?

      • Karen October 28, 2011 at 7:07 am #

        Well technically hand shoe, but I see that you appreciate the brilliance.

  3. Justyna October 28, 2011 at 1:34 pm #

    Mrs Grimm sounds awesome. All current high school teachers should read your post.

  4. doctorpen October 29, 2011 at 6:11 am #

    I am glad this blog has been revived. This is a beautiful post. 🙂

  5. Beth November 1, 2011 at 5:09 am #

    You could start a blog that features a new post each week from someone who’s life was changed by a great teacher. Vale Mrs Grimm!

  6. mischa November 6, 2011 at 11:41 pm #

    i had so many great teachers at high school across heaps of different subjects; i was blessed. miss nairn, the latin teacher, with whom we played latin monopoly and bingo at the end of term and who once let us watch “life of brian” in class because it has one line of latin in it, and who gave each of us a latin name – with some historical significance – at the end of Year Ten (when most people, including me, dropped latin); mrs jackson, the opera-singing french teacher, who taught us a bunch of french songs which i still remember (great way to learn a language!); miss thomas, the history teacher, with whom we made a short film on the american west at the end of Year 7 – and to whom i credit my enduring love of history (to the extent i actually started a PhD in it, though i never finished it); and miss meenahan, my year 12 english teacher, who had such a wonderful dry sense of humour, and who made studying great expectations so great. significantly, i think, all my favourite high school teachers were women. with perhaps one exception, no uni lecturer has made as great an impression on me. aw, i’m all nostalgic about school (i did love it though – what a dork!)

    • Beth November 7, 2011 at 3:55 am #

      I’m so there with you Mischa! Although, I did have some inspirational teachers at uni. I had a particularly wonderful history teacher called Mr Campbell, who taught us about life, the universe and everything. I still keep in touch with him, but to this day find it almost impossible to call him by his first name.

      • mischa November 7, 2011 at 4:16 am #

        i’ve tried to get in touch with some of my teachers post-school (e.g. i wanted to send miss thomas a copy of the academic article i had published in a history journal a couple of years ago to show her how much she influenced me), but haven’t been able to find any of them. maybe i should try harder. and maybe i’m being a bit hard on my uni lecturers. i reckon i learnt more at uni than i did at high school, but my uni lecturers don’t evoke the same response in me – maybe because you don’t get as much personal attention or spend as much “face time” with them. i was probably more inspired by thinkers i came across in my reading.

  7. Beth November 9, 2011 at 3:43 am #

    We had a few rock star type lecturers in uni – Andrew Murphy, Patrick Fury. Cultural Studies in particular. I had a tutor called James Brown who was incredible. But you didn’t spend nearly so much time with them, so they didn’t become part of the fabric of your life so much.

    At my high school they just stayed there until they retired, so it was easy to keep in touch. I bet Miss Thomas would be tickled pink.

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