War of the words

A battle, the likes of which students and faculty have never seen, shook the bowels of Oakland University.

About 40 students stood in front of the Oakland Center last week, clutching packets full of classic literature, yelling, chanting and sometimes screaming poetry at one another.

One side of this poetic duel represented British poetry, the other, American.

This Revolutionary War of words was brought on by Associate Professor Robert Anderson, who teaches British Literature of the romantic period, and Associate Professor Jeffrey Insko, who teaches American Literature 1820-1865.

 The main purpose was not for one group to overpower the other, but to give students an unconventional, yet fun way to hear and say poetry out loud.

“I think for the students to read it out loud as a group reminds them and helps them see that poetry is a communal art form,” said Insko.

“People don’t know what’s going on,” said Anderson.  “They might think we’re a bunch of weirdos, but great poetry deserves to be heard.”


The battle of the OC 

At around 2:40 p.m. on the breezy Thursday afternoon, the Brits arrived, led by none other than Anderson.

His troops, totaling about 20, entered a circular formation and began to chant in unison a poem titled ‘I wandered lonely as a cloud,’ by William Wordsworth.

Eventually, the American troops marched in with their leader, Insko.

“I see some pretenders over there,” said Anderson as he spotted the Americans.

The Americans shook off this meager insult, entered formation and let loose a flurry of stanzas.

Uncle Sam had a different war strategy than Anderson’s British Bulldogs. Instead of reciting the poems in unison, certain students would read specific poems.

The British were keeping it formal and organized, while the Americans were more rowdy, trying to overpower the British formation.

 This difference in styles only added to the chaos.

Specific voices resonated above others, especially that of Sarah Rocker, who fought for America but has a British accent.

Throughout the battle, General Anderson and General Insko exchanged words of their own.

“Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about,” said Anderson after completing a poem. “That’s some poetry.”

“We see your Coleridge, and we raise you an Emerson,” said Insko in retaliation.

At approximately 2:53 p.m. a bloodbath of British romanticism ensued as students from both classes decided to read at the same time.

Sparks flew and, much like a real war, it wasn’t pretty.

Students like senior Dan Massoglia began to shout, trying to be heard over the uproar of eloquent lines.

Around 3 p.m. the only British soldiers left standing were three students and Anderson: senior, Jessica Wallace, senior, Dan Massoglia, and senior Robbie Williford. As for the Americans, they only had Rocker and an Oakland Post distributor who decided to join in.

Although the Americans were outnumbered, they did not lose hope. They battled up until Anderson’s regiment read the final poem, Ode on a Grecian Urn, by John Keats.

In Anderson’s opinion, it is quite a beautiful piece.

After the poem, Rocker threw up her hands.

“I give up, I’ve been converted,” said a defeated Rocker.

They were the last words spoken by the American fleet.


The Aftermath

 Although the main goal wasn’t to win, most of the soldiers believe that their side was victorious.

“As long as you know we won, there’s nothing else you need to know,” said Massoglia.

 “Oh, we clearly won,” said Insko. “Nobody can compete with Dickinson.”

“I think we won,” said Williford. “We won by leaps and bounds.”

Wallace believes her team won, but she also appreciated having the opportunity to compete in glorious battle.

“It’s definitely a new experience,” said Wallace. “Especially doing it this way and reading it like this.”

As for Anderson, he was just happy to see the students have a good time.

 “I won because we did it,” said Anderson. “We won because we did it.”



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