ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Steve Kowit's "The Grammar Lesson"

Updated on October 9, 2017
Maya Shedd Temple profile image

After I fell in love with Walter de la Mare's "Silver" in Mrs. Edna Pickett's sophomore English class, circa 1962, poetry became my passion.

Steve Kowit

Source

Steve Kowit's "The Grammar Lesson"

A noun's a thing. A verb's the thing it does.
An adjective is what describes the noun.
In "The can of beets is filled with purple fuzz"

*of* and *with* are prepositions. *The's*
an article, a *can's* a noun,
a noun's a thing. A verb's the thing it does.

A can *can* roll - or not. What isn't was
or might be, *might* meaning not yet known.
"Our can of beets *is* filled with purple fuzz"

is present tense. While words like our and us
are pronouns - i.e. *it* is moldy, *they* are icky brown.
A noun's a thing; a verb's the thing it does.

Is is a helping verb. It helps because
*filled* isn't a full verb. *Can's* what *our* owns
in "Our can of beets is filled with purple fuzz."

See? There's almost nothing to it. Just
memorize these rules...or write them down!
A noun's a thing, a verb's the thing it does.
The can of beets is filled with purple fuzz.

Reading of Kowit's "The Grammar Lesson"

Commentary

Kowit's whimsical villanelle makes fun of both the poetry form and the ultimate utility of the elementary grammar lesson.

Steve Kowit's "The Grammar Lesson" is a whimsical villanelle, 19 lines with the traditional rime scheme, ABAABAABAABAABAABAA, scattered among five tercets and one quatrain. The repeated lines that form the refrain plus the final refrain repetition are also present in this villanelle.

(Please note: The incorrect spelling, "rhyme," was erroneously introduced into English by Dr. Samuel Johnson. For my explanation for using only the correct form, please see "Rime vs Rhyme: An Unfortunate Error.")

First Tercet: "A noun's a thing. A verb's the thing it does"

The speaker pretends to offer a grammar lesson beginning with the noun, which he explains, "is a thing." Immediately, he moves on to the verb, which he defines as "what a thing does." The reader will identify with this lesson learned in elementary school that a noun is the name of a person, place, or thing, and a verb always describes an action or state of being.

The speaker concludes his first tercet with an example sentence that contains an adjective that describes the noun: "The can of beets is filled with purple fuzz."

Second Tercet: "of and with are prepositions. The's"

The speaker tackles the prepositions, pointing out that of and with in the preceding sentence are prepositions. He says that "the" is an article; he notes that can is a noun, and then he repeats the definition of noun, "a noun's a thing." He also repeats, "A verb's the thing it does."

The poet finds himself in a lucky position: the villanelle requires repetition, and so does teaching a grammar lesson. Thus, this happy situation provides the poet and his speaker with the tools simply to have some whimsical fun.

Third Tercet: "A can can roll - or not. What isn't was"

The speaker continues his lesson by illustrating the interesting fact that both "can" as a noun and "can" as a verb exist side by side in the language: "A can can roll or not." He then tackles the curiosity of tenses, emphasizing that "might" means "not yet known."

Returning to the can of beets, he uses the line, "Our can of beets is filled with purple fuzz," to demonstrate the tense of the be verb, which he carries on into the next tercet.

Fourth Tercet: "is present tense. While words like our and us"

Here the reader discovers that "is" is present tense, as exemplified in the can of beets example. The speaker next moves on to pronouns, stating that words like "our and us / are pronouns." Clinging to the can of beets image, he offers further examples of pronouns: "it is moldy" and "they are icky brown."

And yet again, the required return to refrain, "A noun's a thing; a verb's the thing it does. "

Fifth Tercet: "Is is a helping verb. It helps because"

Explaining the nature of the helping verb, the speaker elucidates that "is" is a helping verb because "filled" is not a full verb; thus it requires a helper. He then returns to the pronoun, this time explaining the possessive pronoun's use, "Can's what our owns."

Of course, he is once again referring back to his sample sentence, "Our can of beets is filled with purple fuzz."

Quatrain: "See? There's almost nothing to it. Just"

Quite possibly growing weary of his grammar lesson, the speaker decided to sum up. He first asks his phantom student, "See?" And continues by claiming that grammar lessons are really quite simple.

The speaker then admonishes his student to simply "memorize these rules . . . or write them down!" To which he attaches the requisite, final repetition: "A noun's a thing, a verb's the thing it does. / The can of beets is filled with purple fuzz."

© 2016 Linda Sue Grimes

Comments

Submit a Comment

No comments yet.

working

This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

Show Details
Necessary
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Features
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Marketing
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Statistics
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)