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The Book of General Ignorance: A Slam Poem This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

By
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.



Join the Discussion


This article has 30 comments. Post your own!

MissEmilyDickinsonThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Sep. 20 at 2:19 pm:
Wow. Haha, it's so different and just absolutely, wonderful and brilliant. I love it. I'll need to think more about it, as I read, but all in all it's amazing. You have a talent and greatness in you; and I hope you kno wthat. Thank you for sharing this. Congarts on the editor's checkmark, too! I hope it gets published soon. Thanks again. 
 
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Lisas.SmileThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Sep. 20 at 5:58 am:
Deserves more than an editorial tick.
 
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Megan C. said...
Aug. 14 at 6:06 pm:
This is fantastic!
 
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Liv.HarrisThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jun. 7 at 9:43 pm:
great job! XD
 
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ahheredia said...
May 4 at 4:25 pm:
This is really cool haha congrats 
 
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TakeAGuessKataraThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Apr. 5 at 9:56 pm:
I completly agree :)
 
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fxxxx This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Dec. 22, 2013 at 5:42 am:
haha i love it. its actually brilliant. it's more like an article rather than a poem. but brilliant nevertheless.
 
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WinterPanda said...
Nov. 17, 2013 at 9:36 am:
I love this piece! I wish I could hear you perform it out loud to get the full impact ^w^ Of course, it's awesome already, but you know, if it's slam it's obviously going to be even more awesome spoken. 
 
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Kestrel135This teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Oct. 27, 2013 at 10:18 am:
This is a fabulous piece of writing. I know that if I had written it, things might have taken to a list feel, but you managed to push that aside and instead write everything down freely. Very nice flow, and I love the way you ended it with a beginning.  Brilliant writing!
 
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KristinCThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Oct. 27, 2013 at 12:12 am:
This is brilliant and so vibrantly detailed! Amazing job!
 
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willagraceThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Sept. 28, 2013 at 3:52 am:
Loved how this tied back in, loved how it sounded (I read it aloud, to get more a feel for it). Great job.
 
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mckennajm This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Sept. 21, 2013 at 4:00 pm:
This kept me reading til the end! Great poem:)
 
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AylinnnThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Aug. 18, 2013 at 8:12 pm:
this is simply amazing :)
 
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BrisaThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jul. 28, 2013 at 4:33 am:
I need to read this book. Awesome poem, great job :)
 
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papillon_rose said...
Jul. 22, 2013 at 3:49 pm:
I've recently grown an interest for slam poetry and hopefully in the near future will write some of my own but i really loved your poem!! Would love to see it performed :)
 
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Opinionsaremyweapons said...
Jul. 21, 2013 at 1:31 am:
Did you know this information previously? Because I can't imagine the effort you took to research all the pecuilar pieces of information. I really enjoyed this poem, though. It was well thought out, creative, and one of my favorite poems I've ever read to be honest. 
 
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Kiyoko This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jun. 23, 2013 at 10:41 pm:
I don't have any slam poetry posted on here, but I have been in slams and I write quite a bit of slam poetry. This is a really nice poem. The second to last stanza is fantastic - mostly because you tie in all this knowledge with something that matters. Very nicely done. 
 
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sarah98This teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Apr. 24, 2013 at 6:38 pm:
I can't help but wonder how long it took you to write all that out....it was worth it though!!
 
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jmitchbbThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Apr. 8, 2013 at 8:31 pm:
I really want to hear you perform this!!!!! It is amazing.
 
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Saphira07 said...
Jan. 11, 2013 at 1:07 pm:
Loved it! Beautiful Poem. It made me think so many things I haven't though before and also how I NEVER fall asleep in 7 minutes .. :D
 
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