#sol17 Poetry Day!

Today I started my poetry unit with my Creative Writing class! It’s always one of my favorite days, because although I write nonfiction, poetry is my first love.

I also love this day because I get to spend most of a period breaking down students’ conceptions of what poetry is and isn’t.

“The Road Not Taken”? Yes, universally agreed. (Although we do talk about what the poem actually means, not what everyone thinks it means.)

Then I move into the land of free verse, acrostic poetry, and some really out-there experimental poems, like this one:

IMG_7733

Or “Night Practice” by May Swenson, “The Murder of Two Men by a Kid Wearing Yellow-colored Gloves” by Kenneth Patchen, any of Mary Ellen Solt‘s concrete poetry, Alan Riddell’s “The Affair“:

My students, who have been carefully led to believe that all poetry looks and sounds the same and has Important Meaning, have never seen poems like these.

Poetry is as much about form and play and creativity and emotion as it is meaning; I tell them. As a poet myself, I’m rather horrified to think that a reader must only respond to my work with detached intellectual curiosity. (So was this poet.) That isn’t the point of art. And that shouldn’t be the point of our teaching of it, from the readers’ or the writers’ perspective.

Unfortunately, due to state testing, we don’t have class tomorrow, World Poetry Day.  But as they left class today, I reminded them as they went home and wrote their first poems tomorrow, they should remember: poetry isn’t something to fear or stress about or feel like you’re going to “get wrong.” It lives in us. It’s our heartbeat. It just takes a little coaxing to get it to emerge.

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5 thoughts on “#sol17 Poetry Day!

  1. I love poetry and sharing and teaching a variety of poetry types as well. And I love the fact that I can break the idea that poems have to rhyme. That Shel Silverstein is the only poet that exists. That all poems have to be about silly things. Not that there is anything wrong with Shel, or rhyming poems, or silly ones for that matter. But I love to take students deeper into poems and there meaning and the experimentation and expression that poetry can impart. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on poetry!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Poetry was also my first writing love. I think the most important thing to teach about poetry is exactly this — that it is only something “profound” through its multiplicity of expression. That it can be whatever you want it to be. That it is not something to be feared and is hopefully not ever boring. This post is giving me some ideas for a creative writing lesson I’m teaching on Wednesday — thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

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