But why a Joe Bolton poem, you may ask? He wasn't a traditional ballad writer; why use his work? Well, the answer is that I decided to concentrate on the simplest definition of ballad I could find: a song that tells a story. In "Lord Randal" the song elements are very easy to track; the story, however, is both simple and ambiguous. In Bolton's "Party," the song elements are much more subtle, yet they, too, reinforce the narrative. Just as a rock ballad isn't a traditional sung ballad but an opportunity to slow-dance at the prom, a contemporary narrative poem isn't "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" but has evolved into a looser, more visual (as opposed to aural) form. Nonetheless, the sound-story connections exist, and I was so happy that the students immediately caught on to them.
Bolton's "Party" is under copyright and doesn't seem to appear anywhere on the web, but I'd be happy to send you a copy if you're interested. It's a pretty great poem as well as a fine way to shock 16-year-olds into poetry.
Moby-Dick update: Chapter 70. First whale caught. Blubber peeled. Head cut off. Stubb has eaten a whale steak. Weirdo from visiting ship has warned Ahab of his doom. Thanks to my friend Jamie, Paul has just acquired 3 different graphic-novel version of MD. He's reading them all so that he can tell her which one is best. So far his comments have been: "Is Queequeg a good character or a bad character?" and "Ahab is crazy!"