219. Beam 10: Ronald Johnson

Is it cheating to steal part of a post from another teacher and just stick it into my post?

The Poetry Foundation published a piece by Eric Selinger titled “Ten Poems I like to Teach“.  Some of the poems are familiar, and others are not.  At the very least, it provoked a lively comments section.

But this last choice was an odd one.  A puzzle.  Science fiction, which often gets the short end of the respect stick even as students eat it up.  Short.  Part of a book-length novel.  Here’s what Selinger writes:

10. “Beam 10” of ARK by Ronald Johnson

Science and poetry never had a more playful, fertile fling than in ARK, a book-length work by the poet (and acclaimed cookbook writer) Ronald Johnson. I like to give my students “Beam 10” of this architectural poem, a little two-line riddle or treasure hunt, like “Blue’s Clues” for grown-ups. Here’s the poem:

daimon diamond monad I
Adam Kadmon in the sky

Yup, that’s all of it. Have one group start by looking up the words they don’t know. Have some think about science: What are diamonds? Where do they come from? What’s their relationship to stars, and thus to hydrogen (which enters the poem via “monad”). Set your punsters loose on Kadmon—aka Caedmon, the original English poet—and tell anyone who starts humming the Beatles’ “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” to go look up where the name Lucy comes from. While they’re at it, have them investigate how that name fits into a poem that mentions Adam, the original human of the Bible, and “Adam Kadmon,” the original, unfallen Heavenly Man of the Kabbalah. (They’ll want to report to the science group tomorrow.) Anyone who hears the Alphabet Song or Blake’s “The Tyger” in these lines is right, which is fun, and I promise that you’ll never sing “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” again without hearing a little answering voice: “Twinkle, twinkle, little star / How I wonder what you are.” “daimon diamond monad I / Adam Kadmon in the sky.” OK—enough clues! Now go play.

Using Selinger gives me an excuse to drop this video in.  Enjoy:


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