“Okay, alright, settle down everyone. Good afternoon students! Today’s lecture is on form versus content, which should come as no surprise if anyone referred to the timetables I sent out at the start of term. Some of you, the ones taking this seriously and hoping to turn their English Literature module into some sort of career, may even have worked their way through the additional reading list. Others may have spent three months in Bali hoping non-stop drugging and partying will transfer into ‘sociable’ and ‘thinks outside the box’ on their CVs. But like I was able to see through my husband, Professor John Edwards (whom some of you may know from the Radio and Television course this shell of an institution offers) claims that his late arrivals home were from losing himself to researching his novel was a blatant lie to cover up his ‘research’ into what lies between the legs of his favourite female students…well, intuitive employers will see through those masking of truths too.
And so! We’re going to start with a poem. A poem by ‘Anonymous’, dated 1951, entitled ‘Birds That Lay Eggs in Another Bird’s Nest’. A rather clunky title, you may agree. Still, it’s a starting point.
‘Birds that lay eggs in another bird’s nest
O, how I strive for such gumption!
Selfish motherships made of beak and claw
Caring not into what lives they tore
Lives that will never get the chance to fully fledge
Instead, laying dazed and broken in the belly of a hedge.
Birds that lay eggs in another bird’s nest
We all know them. We’ve all been there.
The beady black eyes
Trained on your swift demise
Heeding not your angry words demanding an end
To birds that lay eggs in another bird’s nest.
They pillage and plunder
Cast hopes and dreams asunder
Because your home is their home
(Not that it was ever yours to begin with)
In doing so, not thinking it absurd
How I yearn for such self-assuredness of mine
And my progenies’ place in the world
If you’d only thought to check with me first
We could be sharing the warmth, the cradle, the nurse.
Because sharing is caring. Stealing is daring.
You were programmed to multiply
But I see it as subtract.’
Well, what do we think? Comments? Yes, Joanne, share. Sharing is caring.”
“I thought it was ugly, spiteful and…well, unimportant. The rhythm, the metre, it’s all over the place. It’s instantly forgettable. It evokes no emotion. The imagery – asides maybe from the belly of the hedge – could be much richer. It’s more a rant than a poem.”
“It seems Joanne is not a fan. Now that Joanne has laid the corpse out on the table, perhaps someone else would like to dissect. Yes, Antoine, go.”
“I liked it. It’s clearly coming from a place of passion. It’s definitely not about eggs. It’s rough, but then it sounds like the writer was going through a rough time too.”
“Yes, Antoine. Exactly. The form may be shoddy but the content, when we dive beneath the surface layer, speaks of heartache. A sorrow for how a situation was handled. Regret about bonds that could have formed.
Take, for instance, the many secret lives of Professor Edwards, or as I know him, ‘John’. Or as I now think of him, ‘cretin’. He could have explored his fetishes with his adventurous, caring, intelligent wife – AKA moi, yet he chose the form of an 18-year-old student slash bikini model.
Take, for another instance, this lecture. Which will be the last I give here in Cornwall as I have my car loaded and ready to go as soon as I’ve delivered my parting gift to you all. A lesson to look below the surface. Don’t be distracted by shiny, overly made up yet fragile creations when you need to take a deep dive to benefit from the more nutritional value gained from extracting the core.
No, I will not be taking questions, so you may as well lower your hand, Rachel. Enjoy the feeling of the blood returning to your fingers. I haven’t felt any sensation in weeks, it seems. Just numbness, occasionally pierced with needles of shock and shame. I don’t recommend it. I also can’t say I recommend trying to transfer those prickles to a voodoo doll. Yes, I keep an open mind and have open-minded friends but it doesn’t mean their ‘woo’ suggestions are going to work for me. So – and I know some of you pretending to be browsing your phones are recording this – Sally, if you’re watching, you can save your time stitching me any more dolls. Perhaps you should’ve made a life-size version for John to stick his dick into. Food for thought for next time, not that there’s going to be a next–”
“Honey? Adam, dear? ADAM. Just take those headphones off a minute, wouldja?”
“But Mum, this is amazing. So one of my lecturers quit today in the most insane way and I need to watch. Like, man, the one day I dodge a lecture and this shit goes down. Insane, I tell you.”
“And I tell you: you gotta watch your language. You’re not with your friends now, Adam, you’re with your mother.”
“Oh jeez, for fuc–”
“Okay, okay. What do you need me for anyway?”
“A question I’ve been asking myself ever since you shot out of my womb…”
“Thanks Mum, that’s real nice, I’ll send you my future therapy bill.”
“I need you to run to the store and fetch me some eggs. We’re having omelettes tonight and your baby brother thought it would be fun to throw all the eggs out of the fridge and replace them with his stupid little Lego bits and bobs”
“Well, eggs…Lego…they do sorta sound alike, I can see where he’s coming from.”
“And I can see that English course of yours is really a great help.”
“That’s such a coincidence, what with the clip I was just watching. It’s all about–”
“I don’t care Adam, I just need some eggs!”
“Hmm. Maybe it’s nothing to do with which bird it is at all, it’s all about the survival of the eggs.”
“What are you mumbling about? I still don’t see any eggs here. Now go, go before your little brother starts eating his Lego. Go, before it gets dark.”