Friday, September 28, 2012

Poem v. story, sidewalk v. floor

Getting the names of things right: it’s important. Not every short work of the literary imagination is a “story.” Some of them are “poems.” If you teach, you know that students will often get it wrong, even after getting an explanation.

In my Brooklyn kidhood, I would go a little crazy hearing kids call the sidewalk the “floor.” Don’t eat it! It fell on the floor! Had I lived in suburbia, I might not have had this experience, because 1) the kids might have known the difference, or 2) there might not have been sidewalks, just lawns, curbs, and quiet streets.

A poem is not a story. A sidewalk is not a floor. And the map is not the territory, but that’s another kettle of fish. I am not suggesting, however, that the map is a kettle of fish.

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