Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Student Teacher, Part 11

Whatever the seniors in my English classes were listening to back in 1971, it wasn't the Beatles. I plugged in the phonograph and held up the White Album. No recognition.
"Certainly, you've heard 'Rocky Raccoon,' " I said.
No comprehension.
Placing the needle on the record, I sat behind my desk and watched them listen.

Now somewhere in the black mountain hills of Dakota
There lived a young boy named Rocky Raccoon
And one day his woman ran off with another guy
Hit young Rocky in the eye Rocky didn't like that
He said I'm gonna get that boy
So one day he walked into town
Booked himself a room in the local saloon.

Rocky Raccoon checked into his room
Only to find Gideon's bible
Rocky had come equipped with a gun
To shoot off the legs of his rival

His rival it seems had broken his dreams
By stealing the girl of his fancy.
Her name was Magil and she called herself Lil
But everyone knew her as Nancy.

Now she and her man who called himself Dan
Were in the next room at the hoe down
Rocky burst in and grinning a grin
He said Danny boy this is a showdown

But Daniel was hot-he drew first and shot
And Rocky collapsed in the corner.

Now the doctor came in stinking of gin
And proceeded to lie on the table
He said Rocky you met your match
And Rocky said, Doc it's only a scratch
And I'll be better I'll be better doc as soon as I am able.

Now Rocky Raccoon he fell back in his room
Only to find Gideon's bible
A Gideon checked out and he left it no doubt
To help with good Rocky's revival.

Smirks. Titters.
"I thought we were supposed to be studying poetry," one of the girls said.
"Shut up, raccoon face!" one of the boys answered.
"All right, settle down!" I shouted. "This is a song, but is it also poetry? If this is a poem, is it a lyric poem or a narrative poem?"

And so they were led through a lesson in poetic construction, using an amusing ditty chock-full of literary devices. Beyond the introductory seven lines, "Rocky Raccoon" falls into the most standard of poetic forms. The rhyme scheme is A,A,B,C,C,B in the quatrains, of which there are five, with two couplets. Aside from a couple of deviations for musical effect, the meter is as rigid as in any Wordsworth effort: alternating dactylic trimeters and tetrameters.

Is "Rocky Raccoon" a good poem? Of course not. But it went down easier than "The Waterfall of the Eglantine." And before long, I had them all writing about their cars and the prom and "Mannix" in iambic pentameter.


Anonymous said...

Curiously, WRUC online is playing "Rocky Raccoon" as I read your article. Cosmic and heavy.

Park Burroughs said...

It's karma, man.

Anonymous said...

What's funny is that Rocky Raccoon feels very dated and painful now to hear as a poem.
But I was never a fan of their music.