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Tomas Monzon 02/17/2009

Period 1 English I

Poetry Response
Did I Miss Anything?, by Tom Wayman
Poems, since their “conception”, have always been described as being a step above prose in beauty of expression. In
other words, they're the opposite of prose the same way a Windows computer is to a Mac. Both carry out the same
function, but one does it in a prettier way (Mac). A computer analogy, however, is rather out of place when taking a
look at this poem (but I just had to stick it in there).

Did I Miss Anything?, by Tom Wayman, is a poem that isn't particularly rich in the language of flowers, but instead
is simply more intricate in the way it expresses its message, and simply otherwise more of a treat to understand fully.
It's written with a particular twist, but to get it, first you have to know what the poem's about. In the most basic terms,
the poem is about a student and a teacher that both miss school, and that each ask the other the same question – did I
miss anything? Student and teacher have differing responses, and each serves as a rebuttal to the first. The teacher
tells the student they've missed “everything”; the student tells the teacher they've missed “nothing.” Each has their
reasons, and each stanza of the novel makes up one of their responses, one of their takes on why the student missed
everything, or why the teacher missed nothing. It's a little disconcerting at first, to see this random, back-and-forth
writing style that Wayman chose for the poem, but after re-reading the title a few times, I finally understood it.

The student's supposed “failure” to appreciate the education and the learning process that develops within the four
walls of a classroom is chastised by the teacher, and willingly exhibited by the student in his responses. The student,
for example, tells the teacher he missed nothing because none of the content of the course has value or meaning,
because any class activities undertaken won't have any meaning to the teacher or to the student, that nothing
significant occurs when the teacher is not there, and so forth. The student's tone can be perhaps described as
rebellious, but only at the first glance, because it could also be described as one suggestive of a life or attitude that
lacks spirit, that fails to find excitement in common things, etc. Perhaps that's too geeky a statement, but it could be
true – school is not the most exciting thing for many students; in fact, it's akin to a Burger King that's the only source
of food in a town – people might be sick of it, but they've got to keep eating there if they don't want to go hungry.
That's likely not the best example, but it applies with sufficient accuracy, I think. Students that have no inspiration at
home to succeed, perhaps, or students whose life is affected by social or family problems, could without a doubt
contribute to a lowered interest in school. This may or may not be at hand with the student speaking in the poem, but
that's truly what I felt, with words far too strong and direct to be of simply a rebellious punk.

The teacher, on the other hand, is one that preaches, like a preacher, the value of education, and why it's so
important to commute to a class meeting in that set of four walls every morning. His words to the student start out
simple enough - “I gave an exam worth 40 percent of the grade for this term … on which I'm about to hand out a quiz
worth 50 percent”. Okay, simple enough – you missed a couple of big tests. But then his words become much more
ominous – but only in the sense of “with grandeur”, not the evil part – “a few minutes after we began last time/a shaft
of light suddenly descended/...an angle... reveled to us what each woman or man must do to attain divine wisdom in
this life and the hereafter.” The only feasible thing I can say this refers to is the eventual lesson one learns throughout
school – that to gain wisdom, one must learn about the history of culture, of the world, of scientific and technological
developments. To think this is logical, because in the next stanza that the teacher responds in, he says that contained in
the classroom is a microcosm, a model, of human experience, assembled for you to query and examine and ponder.
This is the very nature of a classroom, and the larger picture of education – to learn about past, present, and possible
future, to learn what has occurred in the past, to be aware of what goes on in the world. The poem then ends by
sending both the teacher and the student down a guilt trip – this is not the only place such an opportunity has been
gathered (a classroom isn't the only place of such learning), but it was one place – and you (both the teacher and the
student) weren't here. Wayman's Did I Miss Anything is a representation of the larger picture of learning, yet that
representation is made through using a student's and a teacher's absence as a hyperbole, as a horrible act that
influences, negatively, the lives of two people, but, as it seems, mostly the student. It's the “larger” reason why every
kid says, when asked, “I gotta go to school tomorrow.”