The Book of General Ignorance: A Slam Poem | TeenInk

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.


Similar Articles

JOIN THE DISCUSSION

This article has 63 comments.


on Apr. 5 2014 at 9:56 pm
TakeAGuessKatara SILVER, Beltsville, Maryland
8 articles 0 photos 22 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Live for tomorrow, remember today, and smile because you survived yesterday," by Me

I completly agree :)

Binte SILVER said...
on Dec. 22 2013 at 5:42 am
Binte SILVER, -, Other
5 articles 0 photos 33 comments
haha i love it. its actually brilliant. it's more like an article rather than a poem. but brilliant nevertheless.

on Nov. 17 2013 at 9:36 am
WinterPanda BRONZE, Stittsville, Other
1 article 0 photos 1 comment

Favorite Quote:
Everyone dies, but not everyone lives.

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. 

on Oct. 27 2013 at 10:18 am
Kestrel135 PLATINUM, Waterford, Connecticut
43 articles 0 photos 256 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Respect existence or expect resistance"

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!

on Oct. 27 2013 at 12:12 am
KristinC PLATINUM, Cupertino, California
27 articles 0 photos 19 comments

Favorite Quote:
"So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past."
-F.Scott Fitzgerald, the Great Gatsby

"To write it, it took three months; to conceive it three minutes; to collect the data in it all my life."
-F. Scott Fitzgerald

This is brilliant and so vibrantly detailed! Amazing job!

on Sep. 28 2013 at 3:52 am
------------ BRONZE, Portage, Michigan
2 articles 0 photos 20 comments
Loved how this tied back in, loved how it sounded (I read it aloud, to get more a feel for it). Great job.

on Sep. 21 2013 at 4:00 pm
mckennaxoxo PLATINUM, Louisville, Kentucky
27 articles 0 photos 4 comments

Favorite Quote:
the role of a writer is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say. -anais nin

This kept me reading til the end! Great poem:)

aylinnnz GOLD said...
on Aug. 18 2013 at 8:12 pm
aylinnnz GOLD, Bronx, New York
13 articles 3 photos 42 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Maybe no one's really crazy. Everyone is just a little bit mad. How much depends on where you fall in the spectrum. How much depends on how lucky you are." - Joshua Walters

this is simply amazing :)

Brisa PLATINUM said...
on Jul. 28 2013 at 4:33 am
Brisa PLATINUM, Wasilla, Alaska
20 articles 7 photos 38 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Si dan a tú papel alineado, escribas el otro camino."
"If they give you lined paper, write the other way"
-Juan Ramon Jiminez

I need to read this book. Awesome poem, great job :)

on Jul. 22 2013 at 3:49 pm
papillon_rose, Attleboro, Massachusetts
0 articles 0 photos 4 comments
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 :)

on Jul. 21 2013 at 1:31 am
inactiveuserisinactive BRONZE, Gainesville, Florida
1 article 1 photo 8 comments
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. 

Kiyoko GOLD said...
on Jun. 23 2013 at 10:41 pm
Kiyoko GOLD, Knoxville, Tennessee
10 articles 0 photos 43 comments

Favorite Quote:
Independence is my happiness, I view things as they are without regard to place or person. My country is the world, and my religion is to do good. - Thomas Paine

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. 

sarah98 BRONZE said...
on Apr. 24 2013 at 6:38 pm
sarah98 BRONZE, Holyoke, Massachusetts
1 article 0 photos 406 comments

Favorite Quote:
It is better to write for yourself and have no audience than write for your audience and have no self.

I can't help but wonder how long it took you to write all that out....it was worth it though!!

on Apr. 8 2013 at 8:31 pm
jmitchbb SILVER, Chicago, Illinois
8 articles 0 photos 25 comments
I really want to hear you perform this!!!!! It is amazing.

on Feb. 9 2013 at 4:59 pm
Imaginedangerous PLATINUM, Riverton, Utah
31 articles 0 photos 404 comments
This poem seems so simple, and yet it's beautiful and deep. I love how it creates a litany of knowledge. Great work.

on Jan. 11 2013 at 1:07 pm
SaphiraBrightscales DIAMOND, Islamabad, Other
75 articles 16 photos 1143 comments

Favorite Quote:
I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.
- Maya Angelou
When i was little/I used to point a chubby finger toward the dark sky/And ask my father/why some stars moved and others didn’t/He would laugh and explain that some were airplanes/I still wish on them today ~ Laugh-It-Out
The feathers of a crow are black/The ink of my pen is blacker/The pain of my heart is blackest~ Mckay
If love produced a blossom/I’d take it in my palm/What a blessing, the bright color!/How soothing, such a balm!/I’d keep a petal for my own/The rest, drop from my hands/For such a flower would multiply/And populate the lands~ thesilentraven
And I began to rival legends/Long entombed before my birth./But for all my much envied fame/The lust for more would not abate./The plaques and prizes with my name/Will, like all things, disintegrate. ~ TheEpic95 now known as Helena_Noel

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

lindszz said...
on Nov. 27 2008 at 4:10 am
It was the best I've read all day, and poetry is whatever you make it as long as its from the heart and speaks to those who really pay attention to the words and the message... great work!!

DesertFlower said...
on Nov. 24 2008 at 7:21 pm
That was entertaining. Ha I liked it.

Taro! said...
on Nov. 16 2008 at 6:41 pm
Well done, I learned a lot ;D

on Nov. 16 2008 at 6:12 pm
i really liked a lot but it was more of an essay with a creative line set up. It made me think which kind of person I am... and also why would mike tyson own 4 pet tigers. So thank you for the enjoyable read.