the end of junior year

An Essay By Ben // 5/20/2003

The day came, and after lunch I put on a shirt and tie and walked around reciting Gerard Manley Hopkins poetry aloud. My junior project final began at 4:30pm. By the time my Modern literature class commenced at 3pm, everyone besides me had been through their junior project finals and passed. Happily, by the time I stood waiting in the hall for my turn to begin, I felt that I would pass, too. And I did.

This is what happened. The dean of Thomas More College led me to my seat where I quickly poured myself a glass of water and sat down. There were four of my professors there – three literature and one political science. I looked around the table, and a wave of nervousness did not descend on me as some of the juniors described it had done to them. Instead, my professors just looked friendly and interested to hear my discoveries about Hopkins. Most of the questions they asked I had no trouble answering. In all, I recited seven of Hopkins’ poems and explicated five of them in order to explain themes in his poetry. When my 50 minutes were up, I waited outside while they decided on whether I passed. I prayed a little and looked out the window at my friends standing on the lawn. Then, my professors came out and congratulated me, shaking my hand. After that I ran outside (a little dizzily) to more congratulations from my fellow classmates.

I felt best about the way I performed Hopkins' poems. I worked and worked on speaking the difficult poems clearly, and I thought carefully about the kind of sentiment my voice should convey. Gerard Manley Hopkins really felt his poetry should be spoken, not read. He made the very sound of the poem ring out like music, and he relied on the speaker of his poem to put the stresses in the right places. I didn't forget a syllable of the poems I recited as far as I can remember. In the post-project meeting a day later, my professors congratulated me on a good job, and expressed admiration for my recitation, too. This is, in a way, the best kind of compliment I could get. It means that I expressed my poet’s thoughts and feelings to my professors – and did so using his own words. In the end, the junior project final was not about me but about a poet whose life I could share.

A week passed, and suddenly our semester finals were beginning. As you might imagine, it is hard to get into studying for finals right after the huge relief of being done with a junior project. But, somehow, I managed to study in-between going out with friends, sleeping, and playing Solitaire (a sudden infatuation that came over me). I managed to do well identifying poems and speakers from short quotes on the finals. And, some of my final exam essays were actually pretty good. Among other things, I wrote on the role of love in a Faulkner novel, the effect of totalitarianism on the individual, the contribution of Aquinas to philosophy, and the search for 'otherness' in modern literature. Another academic year has just ended, and I feel that another year of good work will begin soon. As my professors said, this kind of learning never ceases growing on you, and never ends.

Tomorrow, I will begin my summer job working at several State parks nearby my family's house. Hopefully this will be just what I wanted: outdoor work that keeps you busy and around people. Sending out tons of job applications paid off. In my next journal entry I can let you know how it's going and also tell you about the graduation ceremony for the seniors at Thomas More College. But now I'm off – it's summer!


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