Tuesday, October 20, 2009

On teaching poetry

Poetry, I'll admit, is not my forte, either as a teacher or as a writer.

I understand why students struggle with poetry, and I'll admit it: I don't really like poetry.

I like poems. I like poets. Love some of each, in fact. But poetry?


We've moved on in my lit class from reading short fiction to reading poems, and our textbook is not user-friendly. At all. No discussion questions. Just the barest outline of an introduction to each genre.

Today we looked at imagery and comparisons, but I'd only assigned three short poems: Emily Dickinson's "The Snow that Never Drifts"; May Swenson's "How Everything Happens"; and Kofi Awoonor's "The Weaver Bird."

Don't think I'm amazing for knowing those poems. I didn't. They were the three in the section on "Comparison." I would have to come up with something to say about each, and would still have plenty of time to fill.

On Thursday (Shakespeare day), just for grins, I'd had the students practice writing in iambic pentameter. Some struggled, some wrote amazing stuff. At the very least, I got immediate verification to who understood the concept.

So today, we played around with haiku. I just wanted them to explore imagery and dominant impression. I also wanted them to get a sense of how to a poet, each word matters. Each word is a profound choice.

Plus, I needed to fill time.

Inspired by Dickinson, we first wrote on snow. Inspired by Awoonor, we wrote on pigeons.

My contributions:

Tongue out to the snow
Each flake a different shape
Water has no taste

Wing'ed rats they say
The street bum version of the
Lovely turtle dove.


Tempest ina Pot of Tea said...

A poem for you:

I eat my peas with honey
I've done it all my life
It makes my peas taste funny
At least it keeps them on my knife

My favorite poem.

Suzy Rust said...

You underrate your poetic talents, those are wonderful haiku (haikus? haiki?).

Here's my best poem:
"I love tar," said Ugly Pie,
"Tar is black,
And never quite dry."

Influenced by Stevie Smith?