In my first (pre-Google) years as a teacher I was in a perpetual state of fear and trauma: someone would ask me about the obscure name in a poem’s dedication, and I wouldn’t know the answer, and I would therefore be exposed as an ignorant imposter. I’ve relaxed since, having learned that everyone is an imposter. I can always answer a student’s question like a psychotherapist: “How does it make you feel not to know?”
My latest blog for Shenandoah discusses how the presence of a dedication–famous name, cryptic initial, or some other variation on that little tag under a poem’s title–alters how you engage with the verse. I react either smugly because I’m an insider, with the guilt of half-recognition, or with anxious cluelessness, but I’m assuming some readers have a wider emotional range. Would you weigh in either here or by following the link above? I’d really like to know.