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Photo courtesy of Joe Dudeck


The Writing Instructor Explains Why He Likes Heavy Metal

By John Yohe

Because the shifts in class activities are like shifts in time signatures in progressive metal: 4/4 to 7/4 to 7/8 which keeps things interesting and adds some good tension and when they work they feel natural. 

Because I come from lower mid-Michigan between the cornfields and abandoned car parts factories still echoing steel on steel 

Because in faculty senate webex meetings I am thinking in ‘cookie monster’ and have to stop myself from growling at every person wasting my Friday with their feelings—fortunately I’m on mute. 

Because even the punks and rockers were sad when Ronnie James Dio died, and our students want—or we want them to want—us to come down with fire / lift my spirit higher / someone’s screaming my name / come and make me holy again or at least to tell them that they’re all rainbows, which they are. 

Because I want my students to form a mosh pit instead of learning to conform. 

Because the admin building looks and feels like a Panopticon and makes me need to walk in the shadows. 

Because distorted guitars and feedback are the only proper responses (or, feedback) to reading or writing yet another argumentative essay. 

Because my colleagues think I am a mere long-haired hippie. 

Because between morning and night classes I go home and nap to Slayer—the drums soothing and drown noisy neighbors and the world while I recharge. 

Because my school cares more about sports than learning so it’s high school all over again even though without sports we could go out of business 

Because of the energy and passion, which higher education needs much more of. 

Because of the/ir anger and because of my anger at the beauracracy and requirements for my writing assignments when I just want my students to have fun and enjoy writing but because some instructors are so bad (as Bukowski said, it’s not that I’m so good, but that they’re so bad) we need the requirments, I guess, even though the requirements seem to make bad instructors even worse. 

Because being trapped in a classroom when we should be outside. 

Because the flat fifth, the Devil’s note is the same note—the blue note—that makes the blues, which all of my students have.

Because the community that forms in a classroom is like the community that forms at a show in a dive bar, or can be, when we’re waiting for the band. 

Because at the end of the semester I want to salute my students with the goat head hand sign. 

Because when learning happens it feels like when the music is good. And heavy. 

—for Barbara Ras

Born in Puerto Rico, John Yohe lives in Colorado, where he teaches writing at CNCC in Rangely. Fiction Editor for Deep Wild: Writing from the Backcountry.

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