Revision: not purgatory but a place for re-creation
Read notes carefully
by Howard Bristol
Monday 28th May 2012, 23:12 BST
For two-thirds of the year, college libraries are completely impervious to the outside world. Blizzards? Sunshine? Rain? The college library remains warm and dry: a hallowed monument to academia.
But in Easter term, a change occurs. The college library is transformed into an arid desert of drained coffee cups and lecture notes strewn across emaciated faces. The migration season has begun and perspiring students flock to the library en masse to breed anxiety as the terror of exams looms ever nearer.
As I was staking out my place in this newly transformed library, idly flicking through my work in a hazy attempt at revision, I stumbled upon a particularly opaque patch of lecture notes:
What?! Admittedly, this had probably made absolute sense in some academic and particularly abstract context, but right now left me baffled. Still, I was pleased with myself. Perhaps I should write nonsense more often, I thought, as I put the poem from my mind and continued my vain attempt to absorb literature via osmosis.
But it happened again: browsing German grammar points, I came across another odd, reflexive – seriously reflexive – tale:
Was it poetry, or just a language exercise? I couldn’t decide whether there was beauty there, or whether revision was just deluding my increasingly square eyes.
If poetry is partly defined by its form – the crop of the image – then revision, that great and arduous task of giving knowledge form by regurgitating, reorganising, and remoulding it, must have poetic potential. Perhaps your file contains the Iliad of molecular structure, your flashcards a veritable Waste Land of staccato notes.
And as you build a spider-diagram, circling Slavoj Žižek's name with pink highlighters and gazing into the middle-distance with a sigh, remember there could be real beauty in what you are making.
If you have any examples of lecture note art, we would love to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org