here and here.) She died in 1984.
Here's "Visitin' the School":
Oh, dear, I feel like sich a foolIt's an odd little poem, isn't it? It's kitschy in a way that Daniel Tiffany's recent book My Silver Planet: A Secret History of Poetry and Kitsch can help us to understand, and although the second and third stanzas don't disclose the exact content of the recitation, they nevertheless call most readily to our mind the history of poetry memorization and recitation that Catherine Robson takes up in Heart Beats: Everyday Life and the Memorized Poem; seen this way, "Visitin' the School" is thus a poem about poetry.
When folks come visitin' the school.
I never git my problems well,
An' jist can’t read an' write and spell.
When teacher asts me to recite,
Although I try with all my might,
I feel the red burn in my cheek,
An' my throat swells so I can't speak.
My both knees shake an' sweat rolls down.
An' nen when I see teacher's frown,
I git so scared, I wish fur fair
That I was any place but there.
When I git big an' have a boy
I' goin' to make his life all joy.
No matter what the teacher's rule,
I'll not go visitin' the school!
Locating a voice of protest and dissent in the child—the weak, scared, young, and nearly voiceless ("my throat swells so I can't speak") subject put under pressure by multiple forms of surveillance—Campbell's poem becomes unexpectedly politicized, questioning, rather than confirming, the legitimacy of normative educational practices. If we do not hear this protest, it's not because it's not there, but because we who teach and visit classrooms at all levels fail to afford its apparently rudimentary poetic expression—by someone who "jist can't read an' write and spell"—the seriousness it deserves. As school begins, and as many of us may feel moved to lament the poor writing skills our students bring with them, that's a lesson worth keeping in mind.