Leverett Butts - Musings of a Bored English Teacher

Occasional web log from Southern writer Leverett Butts.

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Location: Temple, Georgia, United States

English Professor in Georgia. Writer of Southern lit

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

As an educator I feel a responsibility to improve the lives of my fellow man. Similarly, as a literature professor, creative writing teacher and amateur writer in my own right, I feel driven to provide instructional insight to other beginning writers. The following list was compiled with the help of Sarah Strong Wilson after having attended one too many open-mike poetry readings at The Corner Cafe' in Carrollton, GA. While there are always some very good poets at these gatherings, I feel that my shared wisdom may spare the vast majority of these budding young bards further embarrassment by attempting to improve their craft.

Lev's Twenty Rules for Poetry

1. Don't blame the fairies; if you didn't bring anything, don't read.

2. If you have to practice in front of a mirror to get the right sneer, it's not really poetry.

3. Dramatic monologues are not poetry.

4. Lay off Henry Rollins. He does what he does incredibly well, and therefore, we don't really need more of him.

5. Never EVER write a poem you feel needs a date or grade school level as a title.

6. If your poem rhymes, make sure it rhymes well and, more importantly, says something.

7. Quit writing about loneliness, already. It's been done to death and by others who can do it better. No one's going to like you any better afterwards, anyway. Other topics to avoid for similar reasons are: anger, rage, pain, and corruption in the government. Also, don't write love poems unless you're badass.

8. There are two sides to every story, shades of grey between black and white. Remember this when you sit in your comfortable apartment/dorm room and bitch about society.

9. Just because you wrote something crappy and then used a thesaurus, doesn't make it any less crappy.

10. Similarly, just because something is a "true story" or "really happened" doesn't make the poem any better.

11. If you feel the need to write about yourself, lie your ass off. Nobody will know the difference, and it'll be far more interesting.

12. Punk is dead; get over yourself.

13. The Beats are dead; let'em be.

14. A list of swear words is not poetry. It's just pointless obscenity.

15. "I am the pseudo-poet, hear me roar!" (Real poets do not have to talk so loud).

16. Drunkenness and drug induced hazes do not excuse bad poetry; even Burroughs waited until he was sober to write.

17. Revision isn't just for American history textbooks, anymore. Give it a try.

18. Don't insult your audience; there's probably a reason they're not clapping.

19. If you're just after applause, try karaoke.

20. Leave them wanting more--if they want no more, just leave.

Monday, November 24, 2003

As I may not get a chance to post this week due to the school responsibilities and the holiday, I thought I'd post my Thanksgiving blessing today:

May you never lie, cheat, or drink.

If you must lie, though, lie in each others arms.

If you must cheat, cheat death.

And if you must drink, drink with us.

-Scottish blessing

I hope you all have a happy Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 20, 2003

It's been a slow week here in Temple, GA. We've had registration at work, so I haven't had much time to think of anything witty to say. Therefore I've decided to let someone else have a voice today.

I don't remember where I found this list, but if any of you have seen the short-lived and now defunct show American Gothic you may find this amusing. If you haven't seen the show, shame on you; it's probably your fault it got yanked.
Go out now and find someone who had the foresight to tape them and watch one of the best horror/suspense shows you missed out on.

(courtesy of SDELLIOT@neodata.com)

Beware of little boys in striped shirts.
If you hear "Someone's at the door." -- Run
Being dead does not mean being gone.
Don't mess with the law. Even if you win, you lose.
Everybody has a secret, and someone who knows what it is.
Don't trust your school teacher.
Don't trust your clergy.
Shovels are for more than digging holes.
A lucky pen is not lucky at all.
Conscience is just a fear of getting caught.
No conscience is better than some conscience.
Angels in white are not as benevolent as they seem.
A good loser is still a loser.
Never accept a favor, the price will be too high.
If you witness a crime, find a way to profit from it.
Stay away from museums at night.
Stay away from boarding houses.
Strange things happen at bridges.
Bad things happen to bad people.
Terrible things happen to good people.
If you are really terrible, you must be the Sheriff

P.S. I'd like to welcome Mr. Rogers to my (virtual) neighborhood and thank him for dropping me a line. It's nice to know my audience has moved beyond my immediate friends acquaintances. Hell, even my family hasn't bothered to look me up yet.

Monday, November 17, 2003

Look! I was right:

See what scholars say about Anne Rice and her sexually confused creatures of the night!

Thursday, November 13, 2003

Today's dose of irony:

I am an English professor, my wife taught middle school English, yet my step-son is failing Language Arts beautifully.

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Could someone tell me why Borders has Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles in their literature section while Stephen King, Douglas Adams, Neil Gaiman, and J.R.R. Tolkien are stuck in science fiction/horror/fantasy?

Not that I have any high-brow, snobby preconceptions about these fine genres. Quite the contrary, I believe these genres are shamefully under-appreciated critically. I do, however, realize that the world at large tends to turn its nose up at these types of fiction in favor of something called "Literature," a nebulous concept at best which studiously avoids definition by pointing out what it isn't rather than what it is: Literature isn't shallow. Literature isn't trite. Literature isn't fantasy or science fiction (with the exception of some crossover titles, such as 1984, Animal Farm, and Slaughterhouse-Five , but even they quickly change from science fiction to Distopian, Utopian, or Satiric Fiction).

The assumption is , therefore, that if a book appears in the Literature section, it must clearly be somehow "better" or deeper than its colleagues residing merely in science fiction, horror, or fantasy.

Again, I have nothing against Mrs. Rice, and I wish her all the best in her new designation. I believe, in fact, that Interview with a Vampire and The Witching Hour are among the best in Vampire and Witchcraft fiction. I just don't understand why King, Gaiman, et al are not joining her on the hallowed Literature shelf.

Perhaps its the dearth of homosexual vampires in their fiction as that seems to be the only difference I can find between her fiction and others . Apparently in Rice's universe, all vampires become either homo- or bi-sexual (with even one case of possible incest) after their change. King's vampires simply become blood guzzling monsters. Tolkien barely has sex at all, and Adams' characters may as well be monks. Gaiman, on the other hand, has all sorts of sex in his fiction: homo-, hetero, bi-, and even necro-. So what gives?

Thursday, November 06, 2003

Review Leverett Butts - Musings of a Bored English Teacher

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

If you type my name, Lev Butts, into Yahoo.com, you get porno sites.

I find this disturbing.

Sometimes I feel like an idiot. Some times I am an idiot.

A few weeks ago I went on a canoeing trip down the Flint River with one of my oldest friends, Rob Davis, I wore my favorite shoes, my six year-old black Skechers. By the time we got to the end of our trek, these shoes which had lasted through three years of teaching high school English, countless camping trips, not a few heavy yard working chores, two marriages, and one divorce were done for. The black supple leather had become gray and cracked. The right sole was beginning to break free of the rest of the shoe. One shoestring had completely gone missing and the other had dispatched its greater half on a search and rescue mission for its AWOL brethren. The inner foot cushions were now sponges, squeezing out water and minnows with every step.

And there was a smell.

So I had to buy a new pair of shoes.

A married junior college instructor with a kid, while he has slightly more income, has far less disposable money than a single unprocreated high school English teacher, so Skechers were out. I thought of the Goodwill or Salvation Army stores, but my pride hadn't sank that far, yet. I opted, therefore, for the Super Walmart.

As it turned out, their cheap-ass Skecher rip-offs, Faded Glory, were on sale the day I ventured in, so I tried on the left shoe of their size eight and a half, and was most pleasantly pleased with the fit. My foot bounced comfortably on the cushion, and my toes had plenty of wiggle room. I could see paying fifteen dollars for that kind of comfort.

And I did.

Of course once the purchase had been made, I went straight to my Jeep, took of the old and tired Skechers (I had worn them because I had a camping trip that night, and I wanted to give them one last outing), and slipped on my sleek new footwear.

Again, the left shoe felt like heaven; the right, however, was a little tight. No terribly so, just a little pinching on my insole. I assured myself that they just needed breaking in and by the end of the day, they'd be like old friends.

And they were. They were still mildly annoying, and they wouldn't fit right, but I couldn't let go of them now. On one hand I'm stubborn, and on the other I'm bullheaded. I felt convinced that within the next week they would straighten up and fit right.

Besides, I kinda liked them now. I could no more take them back than I could tell my oldest and dearest bosom pals to take a long hike of a tall mountain. I would persevere.

Sure enough, after a couple of weeks, they began to feel better, or rather I began to grow used to them. I convinced myself they were simply the shoddily products of an Asian sweatshop workforce, and I should be glad that even one shoe fit well and quit bitching about the other. Who needs a comfortable right foot anyway?

So I persevered until this morning. There they were at the foot of my bed like every morning waiting patiently for my feet to enter their dark, warm recesses.

Today, however, I noticed the tongues for the first time.

More specifically, I noticed the tags in different places. I picked them up for a closer look.

Then I noticed the numbers: the left read 8 1/2 as it should, but the left . . . the left read 7 1/2. I hadn't checked the size of both shoes in the box but had simply assumed that they'd both be 8 1/2's.

Well I'd weathered them this long, I'd weather them some more. Thus I put them on.

I noticed that my right foot seemed slightly higher than my left. I sat back on my bed and examined the soles. Not only were the patterns different, but the right sole was a good quarter of an inch thicker than the left.

Other differences began to present themselves: The stitching was different. One tongue was slightly wider than the other. The heel tabs had slightly different shapes.

This was not simply the work of overextended Asian sweatshop girls. These were two entirely different shoes.

And I can do nothing about it now.

How can I go to the customer service desk and explain that I have walked around for well nigh a month in these shoes and just today realized they didn't match?

I can stand a lot of things, even ridicule. But to have the snaggle-toothed overly made-up fat lady who works the customer service desk at my local Walmart laugh at me is too much.

I will therefore bear my shame and my pain and my off-kilter legs in silence.

Well, except for you folks, but hey, I suspect Scott and possibly Rob are the only people reading this, and they already know I'm an idiot.

Why are so many of my American lit students surprised when the salesman dies?

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

In answer to my question about the fate of Halloween yesterday, I learned that the city decided to move Halloween to Thursday night instead of Friday (which explains why I kept hearing knocks on my front door all night. Nobody ever uses my front door, so I figured my hearing was just fucked).

Why did the city elders decide to screw around with Halloween? Was it an attempt to through off the forces darkness slowly massing for our assured destruction?


Was it a nod to our Hebrew brethren who celebrate the Sabbath beginning at sundown Friday?


Perhaps, they feared for the children's safety walking around in dark costumes on a night when teenagers traditionally acquire illicit alcoholic beverages and take to the roads to exhibit feats of derring-do?

Not hardly.

No, the town's best and brightest decided to reshuffle All Hallow's Eve because the local high school had a big football game and our calendar coldly and cruelly conflicted with it.

In related news, Thanksgiving in our town is being moved to Wednesday so as not to conflict with NBC's Must See TV line-up.

Monday, November 03, 2003

So whatever happened to Halloween?

Over the past several weeks, my wife and I have spent our time searching the aisles of discount stores for cheap crappy candy to give out on All Hallow's Eve (Tip: For that nostalgic feel in your cheap crappy candy, visit Big Lots; they have Halloween treats dating back to October, 1932. The more contemporary minded shopper can also find huge savings on cheap crappy candy from Dollar General: a one pound bag of Reese's knock-offs, for example, goes for ninety-nine cents). We decorated our front stoop for the occasion, too. Hell, I even forwent my natural aversion to spiders and their lairs and left several cobwebs hanging from the rafters just to add that air of authenticity.

Tina considered cleaning all the shit I brought out of my old storage area out of our front dining room, but I convinced her that it made the house look more like the house of the crazy cat lady who had newspapers and broken clocks scattered all over her house and seemed to keep residences in every small town in Georgia. I even moved my black cat, Steve, to the front dining room, so he could take up a perch in the front window and hiss at all the newcomers.

We had one anemic looking vampire show up at five thirty (who, surprisingly, neither burst into flame nor disintegrated into a pile of dust), and he refused to take my candy because he had the wrong house (he was supposed to go to the one across the street where his third cousin lived, but he got turned around).

No houses were rolled, no cars egged.

Even the haunted houses took the night off, as if the ghosts had anything better to do.

All the older kids stayed home rather than jump the younger ones from bushes and steal their candy.

Nobody rang anyone's door-bells and left burning piles of shit on their porch.

There were no reports of razor blades in apples, no alien abductions.

However, the next day, All Saints Day, there were fall festivals all over town complete with dancing bears, clown balloon artists, and a pie contest.

Is Halloween passe, now? Shouldn't somebody send out a memo or something?