Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Philip Appleman's "Cramming for Finals"

Although it hardly feels like it, finals are just around the corner (just over a month to go in the case of my students). As an English major and theatre history minor, preparing for finals meant rereading pages and pages of notes, annotating and highlighting text to try to memorize for in-class essays, and repeating ad nauseam notes on books and authors. I also recall long nights in the student union, sitting with my friends as we tried the divide and conquer method with the 20 Shakespearean plays we were going to be tested on for one final.

While these memories probably don't sound very fun, they weren't that bad. Just as "there are no atheists in a foxhole," the people involved in a cramming session become, at least for the moment, incredibly good friends. About three hours in, we would all get loopy, and all of the authors and their works started running together.

"Cramming for Finals" perfectly captures this giddy mix of euphoria, desperation, and confusion that often comes with an end of the semester study session.

"Cramming for Finals"
by Philip Appleman

End of term, will a six-pack do us
while we speed-read Upton Sinclair Lewis?
So far behind, can we possibly ever
catch up on E. A. Robinson Jeffers?
Who said it was going to be multiple choice
on the later work of O. Henry James Joyce?
What's the plot of The Rise of Silas Marner? Who
remembers the Swiss Family Robinson Cru-
soe? Midnight—late. One A.M.—tardy.
Was Laurence Sterne? Was Thomas Hardy?
And hey—was John Gay?
Oh, let's take a break and all get mellow,
take our chances on Henry Wordsworth Longfellow,
and maybe later give a lick and a promise
to the earlier lyrics of Bob Dylan Thomas.

As a self-professed English nerd (or maybe I'm a geek), I love the puns and the mixed-up author names. Yes, this is the sort of thing that makes me happy.