Form vs. Content

In my Creative Writing class, I teach my students a very important lesson: what you learned in kindergarten is a lie, and it's not what's on the inside that counts . . . in short, sound is more important than sense and form overpowers content . . . and then I play "Delia's Gone" by Johnny Cash and "Good-bye Earl" by the Dixie Chicks to illustrate this -- if the song is in couplets and sounds happy, then even if the content is horrific, the effect isn't going to be tragic -- and then I have the kids experiment with this idea; I have them describe the same event -- usually gruesome and violent -- in both omniscient narrative form and limerick form, so we can note the effect, but before they begin I read them my examples; first a faux-news story about an angry husband who murders his nagging wife with an axe because she makes him clean and organize the shed while his favorite football team is on TV . . . the story is graphic and fairly objective, and then I present the same tale in limerick form, and I am quite proud of my limerick, because it's hard to write a good one with the right rhythm:

A hen-pecked husband named Max
murdered his wife with an axe--
he buried her head
out back by the shed--
and now he can finally relax.

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