Magazine article Phi Kappa Phi Forum

The Strength of Character

Magazine article Phi Kappa Phi Forum

The Strength of Character

Article excerpt

For this edition's theme of "Making the Grade," most entries addressed formal education, its achievements and its failures. Ranging in tone from inspirational to anxiety-ridden, poets meditated on societal concerns, such as equal access to educational opportunities, and on individual concerns, including mental, physical, and emotional impediments to educational success. In expressing both affirmation and doubt, these poems also offered celebrations of legacy and troubled musings on the uncertain future of traditional education.

Winner Katherine Cottle, in "Learning to Type," modulates these opposing moods. Making the grade here means more than sheer defeat or triumph; it further signifies an evolution of identity. On the surface, the poem evokes intense test anxiety, that familiar fear we continue to play out all our lives in dreams of archetypal angst. On a deeper level, the trepidation about controlling words by typing them correctly and speedily - a dread so heightened that "every comma and colon [cause] a pulse / of electric pain" - relates to the speaker's growing awareness of language as material, to her development as a writer. Each word she speaks she begins to see "cut down into individual / letters and chopped. …

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