Spurred by something I can’t identify, or would rather not, I have been writing a series of poems based on memories from my childhood.
Some of the poems are fairly straightforward accounts of actual events, maybe transformed a little to emphasize their emotional significance in a way that might not be noticed in a more literal description. Some of the poems have been through many revisions to try to shuck away unnecessary features and highlight and make more precise and concise just what I hoped to capture and express.
“Latin Class” was a bit odd among this set of poems, in that what you see is pretty much the first draft, and took about as long to compose as it took to type out. One revision I made, in response to a colleague’s suggestion, was to include in the penultimate line an example of the pluperfect tense, which was a central topic of the class.
Another slightly odd feature of “Latin Class” among this set of largely autobiographical poems, is that it is entirely fictional. I’m sorry if that disappoints some readers. While fictional, it captures well some of the teaching practices of a few of the priests who taught us in the Catholic schools of my youth. Some of those priests belonged in spirit with the Monty Python crew of comedians. The Father Dunstan of the poem is an amalgam of a few of them, and I think the poem was so quick and easy to write because it reflected something of the liberating wildness that greatly relieved for us what was generally most children’s common dispiriting experience of the average classroom.
→ Kieran Egan lives in Vancouver, B.C. His first book of poetry, Amplified Silence (Silver Bow Publications) and his first novel, Tenure (NeWest Press) were published in 2021.