With Tenure

David Lehman

 
If Ezra Pound were alive today
            (and he is)
he'd be teaching
at a small college in the Pacific Northwest
and attending the annual convention
of writing instructors in St. Louis
and railing against tenure,
saying tenure
is a ladder whose rungs slip out
from under the scholar as he climbs
upwards to empty heaven
by the angels abandoned
for tenure killeth the spirit
(with tenure no man becomes master)
Texts are unwritten with tenure,
under the microscope, sous rature
it turneth the scholar into a drone
decayeth the pipe in his jacket's breast pocket.
Hamlet was not written with tenure,
nor were written Schubert's lieder
nor Manet's Olympia painted with tenure.
No man of genius rises by tenure
Nor woman (I see you smile).
Picasso came not by tenure
nor Charlie Parker;
Came not by tenure Wallace Stevens
Not by tenure Marcel Proust
Nor Turner by tenure
With tenure hath only the mediocre
a sinecure unto death. Unto death, I say!
WITH TENURE
Nature is constipated the sap doesn't flow
With tenure the classroom is empty
            et in academia ego
the ketchup is stuck inside the bottle
the letter goes unanswered the bell doesn't ring.
 
From Operation Memory, published by Princeton University Press. Copyright © 1990 by David Lehman. All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission of the author.

Poems by This Author

08/22/08 by David Lehman
Today in 1862
A Little History by David Lehman
Some people find out they are Jews.
A Quick One Before I Go by David Lehman
There comes a time in every man's life
Autumn Evening by David Lehman
The yellow pears hang in the lake
French Movie by David Lehman
I was in a French movie
Operation Memory by David Lehman
We were smoking some of this knockout weed when
Postscript by David Lehman
He wrote the whole novel in his head
Sexism by David Lehman
The happiest moment in a woman's life
Shake the Superflux! by David Lehman
I like walking on streets as black and wet as this one
The Difference Between Pepsi and Coke by David Lehman
Can't swim; uses credit cards and pills to combat
To the Author of Glare by David Lehman
There comes a time when the story turns into twenty
When a Woman Loves a Man by David Lehman
When she says margarita she means daiquiri


Further Reading

Essays About Teaching
Rose, Where Did You Get That Red? [excerpt]
by Kenneth Koch
The Read-Aloud Handbook [excerpt]
by Jim Trelease
A Treasury of Read-Alouds: Poetry for Children
by Jim Trelease
Can Poets Teach?: On Writers Teaching Writing
by Joan Houlihan
Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Poetry
by Bill Zavatsky
First Gestures
by Julia Spicher Kasdorf
Gimmicks
by Ron Padgett
How I Teach Poetry in the Schools
by Jack Collom
Kindness
by Naomi Shihab Nye
Serious Play: Reading Poetry with Children
Teaching Poetry: Accurate Songs, or Thinking-in-Poetry
by Eleanor Cook
The Accomplished and the Insufficient: What Readers Should Ask From a Poem
by Thom Ward
The Hand
by Mary Ruefle
The Teacher
by Hilarie Jones
Why Latin Should Still Be Taught in High School
by Christopher Bursk
You Begin
by Margaret Atwood