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.