I have always been a poetry freak. My older sister used to read it to me, and someone gave us a book of poetry when I was very young. I read through all of the funny ones by Ogden Nash, Casey at the Bat, Abdul Abulbul Amir and many others. My sister read some serious ones to me like Robert Frost, and Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner. However, my love for poetry was enhanced by the English teacher, Mrs. Finnegan in my junior year of high school.
I am not going to tell you that I had a crush on her. I didn’t. She was kind of a tall wisp of a woman somewhere in her early 50’s with grey blond hair kind of set in a bun in the back. She was not a librarian. Her costumery was rather sexy and highlighted her breastworks. She spoke in a kind of Billie Burke voice. If you remember, she was Glenda the good witch in The Wizard of Oz.
She had a habit of sitting on our desks, as she read to us. Her perfume was muted, but one could always kind of smell it as she glided around the room. He skirts were pulled up higher than she should have been for 1954 and I have a feeling that she knew it. I know that I wasn’t the only one who was entranced by her. She had a coterie of oglers in all of her English classes.
For some reason, there was no discussion of Mrs. Finnegan at lunch time or at any other time. As I look back on it, that seems very peculiar. We did look at and admire Gail W’s rear end, a Rubens masterpiece, but nothing about Mrs. Finnegan. I guess we didn’t really think of our teachers as sexual beings. They were kind of cardboard cutouts in front of the room talking their talk.
To me, Mrs. Finnegan’s class was something that I looked forward to every day. She moderated her voice to suit the poems that we were reading. She gave us the idea that poetry was something that we could use in our lives. I can remember her voice, later on in life,when Spiro Agnew talked about, “ The nattering nabobs of negativism” ,” or pusillanimous pussyfooters” Mrs. Finnegan would have been agog at his alliterative style.
Although her class is clear to me now, I do not have any idea of how much it influenced me. I did get that poetry book that my sister read to me from. However, I don’t look at it much except to make sure that “I had but fifty cents,” is still in there. Sometime in the past, in my guitar stage, I put it to music.