After some Survivor-style foolery, in which four love poems were voted off the island by my first-year English class, the winner was Burns' "A Red, Red Rose" in a close vote over Kim Addonizio's lusty contemporary sonnet (its title escapes me at the moment) about kissing your tattoo. (The other poems were an E.B.Browning sonnet, a Sharon Olds lyric, and one of C.Bok's letterplay pieces.) All along, as we read and talked about the poems, my students claimed the Burns poem was too "cheesy", but in the end it won.
Today in another class, given fifteen key words on which to produce as many "short talks"--quick hits--as possible, the two words least used were "sexuality" and "mourning".
In both cases, then, the safest choices were made. This tendency toward safe readerly/writerly choices is the largest single impediment to effective teaching of literature and writing, in my opinion.
Tomorrow I'm heading up to St. Peter's Abbey for a week of writing. Unsafe writing, I hope.