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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 47 comments. Post your own now!

E.InisThis 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...
today at 8:49 pm
Absolutely fantastic piece! Well done.
 
kate.marieThis 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...
Mar. 11 at 9:53 pm
dude this is wonderful; really made me think ...
 
LittleInkerThis 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...
Feb. 5 at 8:06 pm
 
BreeZephyrThis 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...
Jan. 3 at 5:41 pm
By the way, why the heck is this not in the magazine???
 
BreeZephyrThis 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...
Jan. 3 at 5:41 pm
Two quotes for you: "True knowledge exists in knowing that you know nothing." and "I cannot teach anybody anything, I can only make them think." Both quotes are from Socrates, and this poem reminded me of him. He was a genius. So are you. Amazing job on this.
 
Joz3ph_4This 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...
Nov. 3, 2015 at 8:41 pm
I am one of those people who wanted to take the time to tell you how I thought of this. And the way you capture the energy you wanted to express by making me read without knowing what to expect is marvelous. I enjoyed your work and I hope you can do more with your talent.
 
InfralalenshkaThis 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...
Nov. 1, 2015 at 9:03 pm
Je t'aime. I struggled with that dilemma. Thank you so much for writing this. I'm in tears.
 
sharpened_pencilThis 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. 19, 2015 at 11:26 am
You deserved to be published in the magazine! Such a lightly humorous and simple slam poem that conveys the message that this is one world and everybody is pretty ignorant in their own way. At the end of the day, we're not that cultured or intelligent, and that's really important to keep in mind. Congrats and amazing work!
 
CallMeAriaThis 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. 7, 2015 at 8:25 pm
Awesome!! I didn't get bored for a second :) this was such an enjoyable piece to read, I picked up some tips, myself xD how that's okay? I would appreciate it if you would check out some of my work and see what you think? :)
 
knick-knack said...
Sept. 4, 2015 at 10:13 pm
I couldn't stop reading this. It should be a fairly simple affair; you list off some facts, some figures, with a mirrored end and beginning, and let the words take you from there. But this was...so much more than that. Seriously, this was fantastic, and I loved every single second of it. :) Seriously, you are a fantastic author and should definitely keep writing.
 
KittyKat1419This 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...
Aug. 30, 2015 at 1:31 pm
Wow, this was great. I loved this poem a lot, and it is way more than a poem. Many thanks for writing this. It has inspired me :)
 
CharleyHeelisThis 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...
Jul. 12, 2015 at 1:35 pm
Thanks , macprincess :)
 
Izzy777 said...
Jun. 25, 2015 at 3:42 pm
you kept me so captivating the WHOLE ENTIRE TIME. So beautiful this deserves way more then a Editors Choice (:
 
NightinGem said...
Apr. 6, 2015 at 4:53 pm
This is fantastic -- its voice is so undeniably human, like your thought process when planning what to say to your friend next. You capture the sporadic nature of a wandering, knowledge-lusting mind in arms both humorous and somewhat sad, and it fits oh-so-perfectly with the voice in your head -- I've heard people asking for it to be read aloud, but honestly, the perfect voice for this piece is that one who's always with you,that thought-voice you can't really pin down. The facts, interspersed w... (more »)
 
cocasalThis 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, 2015 at 10:12 am
Wow! This is great work: simple and powerful. This must be selected for the magazine!
 
Clarabelle said...
Mar. 22, 2015 at 11:42 pm
This is just... amazing. It really deserves much more than just an editorial mention. You are talented enough to transcend emotion, power and meaning through the verses you write without having to justify your means through voice. I would truly love to see you -- or someone -- perform this as a real slam poem. Truly amazing work, you should be incredibly proud. Keep on writing!
 
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. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Sept. 20, 2014 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. 
 
Lisas.Smile said...
Sept. 20, 2014 at 5:58 am
Deserves more than an editorial tick.
 
Megan C. said...
Aug. 14, 2014 at 6:06 pm
This is fantastic!
 
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, 2014 at 9:43 pm
great job! XD
 
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