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The Cabbage by Ruth Stone

The students in my English 100 classes recently submitted their essays about reading and interpreting poetry. They had three poems to choose from--in the essay they just needed to write about one poem and how their interpretation of that poem developed over time. (I thank Nancy Kennedy for the framework of this assignment; she gave it to me many years ago now.)

I try to change up the selection of poems for this assignment, and this quarter I assigned "The Cabbage" by Ruth Stone for the first time. The full text of the poem is available here on I think the students enjoyed this poem. Rereading it again I find it's a good example of a poem that makes interesting use of "you" rather than "I" for its voice; I think this can be hard to pull off. This poem would be a good basis for a writing exercise in which you write a piece in the second-person voice.

Ruth Stone also has a great poem about having a burger at McDonald's, but it doesn't seem to be available online, alas.


Rebeka said…
Oh I like that one! How well did your students do? Also, out of curiosity, do you have many high school students taking your class for college credit?
Yesterday I read a paper about "The Cabbage" that was one of the best responses I've seen for this assignment, and I've used the assignment in various forms for quite a while now. The student had really insightful ideas of the meaning of the cabbage as a symbol and also the symbolism of the stars in the painting.

Yes, I do get a lot of students who are high school age as there is a pretty active program here called Running Start that allows high school students to take college classes. I don't always know which students are in high school because they don't have to self-identify, but sometimes they tell me.

Are you finding a lot of high school students in the classes you're taking?
Rebeka said…
That's great - I absolutely love when others interpret poetry. You can get so many different thoughts and ideas. That's the beauty of it.

I'm in my last year now, so no. Everything I'm taking is upper level and social work classes. When I was at the community college a few years ago, I was taking an Intro to fiction class during the day and most were high school seniors. I felt super old... eeek! They had some really great insight, though. I was pretty impressed.

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