The Book of General Ignorance: A Slam Poem

June 3, 2008
By Kathryn B., Novi, MI, Novi, MI

The Book of General Ignorance

There are 4 kinds of people, intellectually speaking.
There are the people who know that they know things,
and the people who know that there are things they don’t know,
and the people who don’t know how many things they know,
and then there are the people who don’t know that they don’t know anything about anything.

And The Book of General Ignorance
swears it’s for the people who realize how very little they know about the world, and want to know more.
So I read it.

I learned that chop suey isn’t really Chinese,
and that bagpipes aren’t really Scottish,
and that there are actually only 46 American states,
because Massachusetts, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and Virginia
all think they’re too good for us
and prefer the term “commonwealths.”

I read that the average person takes a mere 7 minutes to fall asleep at night,
but that doesn’t apply to those of us
who lie there and wonder
how to escape a vicious crocodile
(FYI, you’re supposed to rubber band its mouth shut and run away)
or why sunlight is technically invisible.
You can’t see it, because if could you see it,
there would always be a layer of milky fog
between you
and the rest of the world.
Unless, of course, you’re in the dark.
Which is even stranger because it’s not there
and you still can’t see through it.
They say it takes the average person 7 minutes to fall asleep,
but last night it took me 4 hours.

I learned that mosquitoes hum a concert B natural when mating,
that Mike Tyson owns 4 pet tigers,
and that the Eskimos don’t really have a hundred words for snow.
The only have 4.
They do use the same word for “kiss” and “smell” though.
The French use the same verb, “aimer,” for both “to like” and “to love.”
This is fine most of the time, but when you want to tell someone,
“I like you” or
“I love you,”
je t’aime doesn’t let you choose.

I read that Christopher Columbus never actually said the world was round,
that if you cut an earthworm in half all you get is 2 halves of a dead worm,
and that Baghdad really was a beautiful city once, centuries ago,
but now a thumbs up translates to, “screw you.”

And did you know
that the earth is millions of years overdue to be hit by another giant asteroid?
(Don’t look out the window, it could be coming now.)
The death toll would exceed 2 billion.
Which means that even if you make it,
one third of the people you know won’t.

I learned that the moon smells like gunpowder,
that sometimes hippos will drag sharks out onto land and trample them to death,
and that for every hundred thousand paper clips sold, only 5 actually clip papers.

And have you ever slid down a banister?
No, you haven’t.
I believe the correct term is “handrail.”
The “banisters” are the little poles holding up the handrails.

I read that there are more movie theaters in the former Soviet Union than there are stars visible on a clear night,
that Antarctica is drier than the Sahara Desert,
and that if you took every Eskimo in the world, and grouped them by fives,
the entire population could park at the Los Angeles International Airport.

And if you’ve ever wondered what color the universe is,
now I can tell you.
It’s officially…beige.
For a couple weeks some scientists at Johns Hopkins University said it was pale green.
They even looked at paint chips, and claimed the universe was somewhere in between Mexican Mint, Jade Cluster, and Shangri-La Silk.
Then they realized they’d miscalculated and it’s actually more of an oatmeal.

I learned that Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was actually female,
that you’re more likely to be injured while taking off a pair of tights than while swimming after eating,
and that when one chicken starts to bleed, the rest of the coop will peck it to death.

I read that the suicide rate in Lithuania is 5 times that of the US,
and that throughout history, more people have died at their own hand than have been killed in wars.
That adds up to millions. One every forty seconds.
And despite this, I’ve had friends tell me that it’s not that they don’t want to live,
no, they just want to live…
“differently.”

On page “x” of the introduction
The Book of General Ignorance claims
“This book is for the people who know they don’t know very much.”
Because, as we all know,
there are the people who know that they know things,
and the people who know that there are things they don’t know,
and the people who don’t know how many things they know,
and then there are the people who don’t know that they don’t know anything about anything.


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This article has 63 comments.


on Jan. 14 at 11:08 pm
Ataia Templeton BRONZE, Detroit, Michigan
1 article 0 photos 7 comments
I loved this !! But, I swear, I did not know where you were going with it.

on Oct. 22 2017 at 8:28 pm
WritingAddict03 SILVER, Saint Peters , Missouri
5 articles 0 photos 68 comments

Favorite Quote:
Everyone is a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree it will live its whole life believing it is stupid. - Albert Einstein

This is beautiful!!!!!!!!!! Please don't ever atop writing!!!!!!!!!!

on May. 25 2017 at 4:44 pm
Just.Another.Girl SILVER, West Plains, Missouri
5 articles 2 photos 11 comments

Favorite Quote:
Why fit in when you were born to stand out? -Dr.Seuss

I loved this poem, it is informative, but to the point, all while being very entertaining! Keep writing so that I may add more of your poems to my favorites! :)

on Apr. 29 2017 at 2:05 pm
HereSheIs BRONZE, Wellesley, Massachusetts
3 articles 0 photos 193 comments

Favorite Quote:
"We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light." -Plato

I've read that book, and you've done a perfect job of squeezing its soul into one epic poem :)

MissJade GOLD said...
on Apr. 24 2017 at 11:57 am
MissJade GOLD, Bridgman, Michigan
16 articles 0 photos 9 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Every word is like an unnecessary stain on silence and nothingness."

Such excellent work!

WildKiwi said...
on Apr. 17 2017 at 7:31 am
WildKiwi, Wyoming, Michigan
0 articles 0 photos 2 comments
This is really good!

on Feb. 20 2017 at 2:27 pm
Mr.WordExpert BRONZE, Kolhapur, Other
3 articles 0 photos 21 comments

Favorite Quote:
Be yourself. Love yourself. Live yourself.

haa..... after reading the whole poem.......... I have only one thing to say.. . . . I LOVE YOU. And I LOVE IT. its phenomenal.

antea GOLD said...
on Feb. 20 2017 at 3:04 am
antea GOLD, Tirana, Other
10 articles 0 photos 37 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Not all who wander, are lost..."

Amazing! Good Job!!

on Jan. 26 2017 at 7:17 pm
Consalvator BRONZE, South Jordan, Utah
1 article 0 photos 41 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Better than "alternative facts"

on Jan. 17 2017 at 10:47 am
dragonstar BRONZE, Olympia, Washington
2 articles 0 photos 9 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll still land among the stars."
-Les brown

So.. apparently they are calling the color 'cosmic latte' but I'm not sure how true this is.

on Dec. 7 2016 at 8:02 am
Sparaxis SILVER, Saint Marys, Georgia
7 articles 4 photos 268 comments

Favorite Quote:
"If you keep on picking on me, I'll mess up again. This time, on PURPOSE."

I don't know! I didn't even think it was possible!

on Oct. 13 2016 at 11:39 pm
Damn son... that was a nice poem

on Oct. 13 2016 at 5:44 pm
dragonstar BRONZE, Olympia, Washington
2 articles 0 photos 9 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll still land among the stars."
-Les brown

This made me think. Hard. If every thing in this poem is true, how did they find the color of the universe?

jedjake BRONZE said...
on Sep. 20 2016 at 8:33 pm
jedjake BRONZE, Austin, Texas
3 articles 1 photo 9 comments

Favorite Quote:
This is the way the world ends not with a bang but a whimper- T.S Eliot

The author wrote a second book it was really funny

vivz02 GOLD said...
on Aug. 28 2016 at 12:30 pm
vivz02 GOLD, Naperville, Illinois
12 articles 0 photos 7 comments

Favorite Quote:
"a life you love," sydney carton to lucie manette, a tale of two cities

I LOVE this poem! It's hilarious, the intro and conclusion are perfect, and it never gets tiring! Definitely one of my favorite pieces on this website. Keep up with the good work!

on Aug. 8 2016 at 9:28 pm
graphiteshimmer, Knoxville, Tennessee
0 articles 0 photos 5 comments

Favorite Quote:
"If I told you that a flower bloomed in a dark room, would you trust it?"

what you said.

Gagax SILVER said...
on Aug. 8 2016 at 3:36 pm
Gagax SILVER, Sugarland, Texas
5 articles 1 photo 46 comments
BEST THING I EVER READ LOVE THIS POEM U GOT TALENT ITS FUNNY OMG I WANT TO GIVE U AN AWARD AND SO MANY HUGS THIS IS AWESOMEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!! imma read this book

on Jul. 27 2016 at 10:58 am
adventuregirl331 PLATINUM, Los Angeles, California
21 articles 0 photos 19 comments

Favorite Quote:
If you want something in life...reach out and grab it.

i love it. great piece of work. best part you had fun writing it. right?

on May. 8 2016 at 8:49 pm
dont.cry.little.girl. SILVER, Ooltewah, Tennessee
7 articles 0 photos 46 comments
Absolutely fantastic piece! Well done.

on Mar. 11 2016 at 9:53 pm
ambivalent GOLD, West Bend, Wisconsin
19 articles 0 photos 180 comments

Favorite Quote:
everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. the worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt. [sylvia plath]

dude this is wonderful; really made me think ...


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