'B' or not a 'B'? An English teacher steels himself for Finals

Gary Dop
Gary Dop: I've spent a lot of time listening to really awful student presentations.
Photo courtesy of Jeff Hathaway

Gary Dop is an English professor and writer in residence at North Central University in Minneapolis.

Now that it's December, college students are wrapping up their work for the fall semester, turning in final papers and giving their final presentations. I'll be one of the professors listening to those presentations.

Over the years, I've spent a lot of time listening to really awful student presentations. And while I've heard some brilliant ones, too, I've come to realize that students have to be reminded that both what you say and how you say it really matter. I've taken to reminding my students by reading them this poem, which I wrote using some of their unique choices as a resource.

Shakespeare, the top American writer ever,
wrote his plays in an English accent
like Russell Crowe. "Merchant of Venice"

is a problem play because it's about hard crap
like racism and the civil rights movement,
but not Martin Luther King who was southern

and not in Boston like the bard,
which's Willie's nick name. People call me
Slash. Al Pacino's a character in the movie

adapted by Shakespeare just like the play,
except Shakespeare liked boys
to play girls, and no girls were allowed

in his theaters all over the globe. Even girl parts
like the chick who looks like Cate Blanchett,
who dresses like a boy — like Cate did

when she played Bob Dylan — that girl's named
after the car, Portia, to indicate she's wealthy —
even those girls were boys, but nobody was gay

back then — no offense. The Shylock wants
a pound of Jeremy Irons to pay for his sins
because Jews are going to hell

according to the Angel-Kind church, which is like
Catholics but their Pope gets divorced.
Queen Elizabeth, who still isn't dead,

banished the Jews. During the Holocaust
Hitler killed 6 million Jews. Israel was founded
in 1948. One scholar, Ilikeitlikethat74

on Cheatpapers.com, suggested that Shakespeare
was racist and hired a ghost writer.
Build to a passionate close — oops,

I wasn't supposed to — that was my notes.
So we can learn much intelligence
from "Merchant" even if we don't know Jews

and we don't like Christians. In conclusion
a quote from Pacino, who starred
in Scarface and he was the devil

in that one with Keanu Reeves: "I am a Jew.
Hath not a Jew hands." I'll skip ahead
to stay under time. "If you prick us,

do we not bleed?" It's like, If you tickle us,
do we not laugh? In conclusion, you grasp
that Shakespeare is patriotic

and would have stood on the white cliffs
of Dover, Georgia with Dr. King.

(A version of this poem was first published in Quiddity International Literary Journal.)

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