Sunday, October 24, 2010

Teaching Poetry

This synthesizing post from Teaching College English draws on notes from The CHE forum on Teaching Poetry + observations added by the blogger,

"At the beginning of the poetry unit, I devote a class session investigating what poetry actually is. I have students talk/write about their notions/conceptions of poetry, how to tell a “good” poem from a “bad” poem, etc., and work from there. I bring in some poems that show different approaches to poetry in terms of form, content, etc., and help students figure out what’s going on in those. Then, I have students search on the Internet for what they think is a “good” poem, and have them explain, in writing, why it qualifies as a good poem. I’ve had very good luck with this method, and it makes the rest of our poetry study much more interesting for all of us."


The long central passage, a citing the forum on "close reading," that the passage above leads into is particularly interesting and closes by returning to real life, non-academic readers:

When I have taught poetry, I usually start with questions like:
Who writes poetry?
How does one write poetry?
Who reads poetry?

Then I talk about places where poetry exists that people might not expect, like references to Poe’s “The Raven” in a comic strip and “I think that I shall never see” in Letters to the Editor.

I also teach the “grammar” of poetry, recognition of terms, and, after we have practiced on a few poems in class, I have them bring in three copies of some song lyrics. Then we trade those around. Everyone looks for the poetic devices in the lyrics of their neighbors’ songs.

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