Saturday, December 31, 2011


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“In the calm grandeur of a sober line,
We see the waving of the mountain pine.”
-- John Keats, “I Stood Tiptoe Upon a Little Hill”

When I read these lines this morning, I thought of thoughtful and ingenious writing, the kind I hope my young students can produce fairly steadily. I want their writing to definitely be “sober”, in the sense of serious and sensible, but I also expect their sentences to have some spirit in them, some liveliness and pizzazz, perhaps like “the waving of the mountain pine”. It’s well and good to give a reader paragraphs that present organized arguments, but it’s also essential to show some flares and explosions of stylishness. It’s fine to unfold sentences that are “calm” with clarity and good sense, but let there also be, I tell the students, some “grandeur” befitting the writing of enlightened and openhearted teenagers.

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