It was a particularly hot day at the end of May. We were nearing the end of the semester, and the entire lecture hall was craving an early end so we could go sit outside and enjoy a well-deserved ice cream. It was 3 in the afternoon and my head was buzzing with the heat and all the information on Alfred Tennyson that the professor was throwing in our faces. I didn’t care about poetry. I didn’t care about Tennyson. I didn’t care about how passionate my professor was about him. I just wanted the lecture to end and go outside and enjoy the last carefree days of the semester. And yet our professor rambled on for another full hour about Tennyson and his oh so famous poem Ulysses and how it still carries a universal message even though it is set during the Ancient Greek period. I really couldn’t care less.
You see, I always enjoyed my English literature lectures at university. One professor in particular was incredibly passionate about British literature and poetry after the 1800s, and he never failed to fascinate me. But poetry was never my forte. No, let me state it differently. I understood poetry and I could ramble on about oxymorons, parallels, and sonnets like my life depended on it (which was often the case during oral exams), I just never really got it. I didn’t understand how it moved people. It just seemed so incredibly corny. I love a good short story like Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery or a book secretly conveying great social commentary like Gulliver’s Travels (wait, no, scratch that – I never even made it through GT), but I didn’t love poetry. I didn’t care about Tennyson and his Ulysses at all. He was just a name in my English Lit notes. Until now.