Monday, August 06, 2012

Why We Need to Write Poetry

On several occasions during the ISI this summer we talked about poetry. Sometimes we did some really deep reading of poems, sometimes we were writing our own poetry, sometimes it was a mix of both. I enjoy poetry, at least to some extent. In my classroom we read poems and songs regularly and each student has a poetry binder with their own copies of the poems and songs.

That's about as far as I go however. We don't dig very deep with the poems we read and I haven't done any poetry writing with my students since I switched to teaching first graders. My experiences during the ISI have me thinking about why this is and if I need to make a change.

I think the reason I've avoided writing poetry with my students is a mechanics issue. I work so hard to help my students understand the basics of using capital letters at the beginning of sentences and ending with punctuation that I am hesitant to throw in poetry which flies in the face of those conventions.

After studying poems and writing my own this summer I don't think that's going to cut it anymore. Poetry offers so much to readers and writers in the way of language use, word choice, and phrasing. We need to really study the poems we read and do some writing of our own. We need the freedom to experiment with language and form. We need the push to show rather than tell. All of that will make an impact on their prose writing as well. We can iron out the mechanics eventually.

1 comment:

Matt Withers said...

I also think that so much of how poetry is taught creates a feeling that if you don't "Get it", then you are somehow insufficient intellectually. As though being able to mine the deeper meaning of obtuse poetry is the gateway to smartuosity. I personally think that taking the responsibility away from the writer and putting it all on the reader is silly, and ignores the simple truth that poetry, like art, is mostly about what you respond to. Once something strikes you then you can study it, but understanding something is rarely going to make you love it if you don't feel something on those early reads.

I can see the hesitation with breaking the rules before they know the rules. I guess it's fortunate that the form of poetry is usually so clearly different than prose.