grass

Ward Maxwell

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grass is unusual

it was invented by the Romans

unlike most people grass stays where it grows

if grass had gone to the moon it would be there today

because grass looks luxurious

people put it wherever they can

a wedge of grass can split a sidewalk

city block, manhattan skyscraper

make a dog sick

step on grass; it deserves it

Ward Maxwell, “Grass” from Scat! (Spring, 1985). Copyright © 1985 by Ward Maxwell. Reprinted by permission of the author.

Source: Scat! (Spring, 1985)

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1) What do you think about grass? Have you ever been forced to mow the lawn? Do you ever catch yourself admiring a long stretch of ultra-green grass in someone else’s yard or a park?

 

2) The tone of “grass” is playful. But is this a funny poem? Why or why not?

 

3) Throughout the poem, the speaker describes the history of grass and what it’s capable of, before switching tactics in the last line. The speaker instructs the reader to step on the grass because “it deserves it”. What effect does that shift have on the mood and rhythm of the poem?

 

4) This poem asserts that grass “was invented by the Romans”? But grass is a part of the natural world. What do you think the speaker means by invented?

 

5) On his Peterborough Poets website, Maxwell has published “grass” in a longer abecedarian sequence. Each poem focuses on a single object, for instance “grass” comes after “fish hook” and before “light bulb”. How does the shift from a short, stand-alone poem to one of a series of poems change how you think of “grass”?

 

6) There is one capital letter and one piece of punctuation in the ten lines of this poem. How does that change how you read the poem on paper, how you perform it?

 

7) Write about the last time you were barefoot in the grass. What did it feel like? What were you doing - sunbathing on a blanket? Playing badminton? (Alternate: write about why you’d NEVER go barefoot in the grass.)

 

Useful links

 

  1. https://wardmaxwell.com/2014/01/07/grass/
  2. https://www.poetryfoundation.org/learn/glossary-terms/abecedarian
  3. https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/anthropology-in-practice/the-american-obsession-with-lawns/
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