Posted by: Tom Triumph | June 3, 2009

Limits of the Internet: What Inspires Us

If you are looking for poems, check out nearly any other entry….

Just as I figured that anything worth finding was either available on the internet or copyright protected, I discovered William Diaper.

Being a middle school teacher, Diaper’s last name caught my eye as I finished the entry on detective fiction in my Cambridge Guide to Literarature in English and happened to glance across the page. This was the book I used before Wikipedia, and it was odd to flip through a reference book again as I looked up basic material.

First of all, it took me awhile to find detective fiction, as the Cambridge Guide did not list mystery or crime fiction, nor did it direct me to the entry in detective fiction. Only after looking up Agatha Christie did I know to try detective fiction. No redirect, as the internet often does. Second, the entry on detective fiction was full of bold words and names, which indicate that these are explained elsewhere in more detail. Fine, except that on the computer I can click and instantly find out what this literary term is or who that writer was. I am spoiled.

That said, had I not been using a book I would not have been able to glance across a page at the entry that followed detective fiction alphabetically: William Diaper. No link to link to link connection would have brought me to him.

Now, Diaper is described as a poet who wrote Nereides, a sort of pastoral set among mermaids and mermen, and he also translated the first part of a book I’ve never heard of, Oppian’s Halieuticks, a Greek epic about classifying fish and methods of fishing. His paragraph in the Cambridge Guide seems a bit sad. And, yet, here he is. Obscure, sure, but I am now writing this and you are now reading it.

From this inspiration, I had thought of seeing if a part of Nereides might be appropriate for Middle School Poetry 180, but I cannot find the text online. With all of the British schools and their entire ancient libraries online, especially the public domain stuff, I am shocked to find no Diaper.

Instead, I found an odd little press in Oakland that publishes it in a cool, blue papered bound copy. Kolourmein Press offers it up, and I think I might have to buy it.

I am now a bit obsessed with Diaper and his poem. I want the book from Kolourmein Press, and to put his work on this site so some other middle school urchin gets hooked, too. Because, that is how it works. We, as teachers, too often seem to entertain the masses, or help the helpless or cater to the high flyers, but it is really the kid in the corner that we need to connect with. Sometimes. I find that when I throw something like this out, it sticks in odd places. To them, Beowulf and Salinger are both old. When we resurrect Diaper because, well, he’s interesting today we keep the canon alive more than just offering up some Frost or a poem with swears.

And, really, isn’t doing poetry really about being human and leaving the vocational stuff behind for just a moment?

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