During a professinal development event, a presenter spoke about teaching poetry. To my knowledge, this person spent little time teaching, yet he was a supposed expert about all things teaching. In the course of his presentation, he expressed disdain for poetry. He claimed, without evidence, we teach poetry without explaining to students why we teach it.
In my teaching, I described reasons why I taught something, opening up learning to include what students considered important. This included questions about topics and content. Often, students began with a negative view of poetry. With time, we got over hurdles together. Without a collective effort, we do not overcome issues in life and learning. We end up with haiku written through rote formula:
Here are five syllables
And here I write seven more!
Are you happy now?
The presenter indicated, despite having written poetry, he was unsure why teachers taught poems written. I think there are good reasons, but I could be wrong.
Poetry calls me to choose words, paradoxically spare and spacious. Spareness is in the number of words; the fewer the better. The space allows the reader room to interpret. What did the poet mean? What senses are invoked through the word choice?
Instead of counting something, poetry asks me to explore life and understand quality is not evenly distributed. I have privileges, maleness, whiteness, education, that others do not have the eauitable access to.
Caring about each–
Experiences never identical.
Revealing thickness in meaning,
Experiencing sameness different–
Bringing us together,
I told students, who struggled with reading and writing, poetry was an alternative to express themselves. I used ee cummings, as a model, to overcome worries about grammar, spelling, and capitalization.
i dig ee cummings
won’t worry about spellin either
aint no problem
i write poetry
I enjoy poetry. I always have. I remember a poem, The Elevator, I memorized in Grade 4. I think it Walter de la Mare wrote it. My friend memorized a poem called Douglas Fir. His name was Douglas. When I enjoy who and what I teach, I bring enthusiasm to writing poetry.
Artists, including poets, are often at the forefront, addressing social issues. In our times this includes Maya Angelou, Thomas Merton, Wendell Berry, Adrienne Rich, Parker Palmer, Thich Nhat Hanh, etc. Sometimes, I do not think of these authors as poets. Each of them wrote/writes poetry helping to raise my awareness about issues.
Below are the wonderful and poetic words of Thich Nhat Hanh.
I close with a poem I wrote many years ago as a 15 year old in high school. I have never been a fan of what we call capitalism. What we have is predatory and is at the root of current political, economic, and social issues. Only a handful are admitted to the club.
Captains of Society
Captains of Society
Shallow, superficial, arrogant
Greatness in the eyes of others
Only those with resources can apply
Pay a high price, but…
It’s their fault
They own their misery.
A cheque to charity
Assuages my conscience
What about the despair?
I claim I do
Donations in badfaith,
It’s a tax receipt
I really claim, but…
Done on the backs of others
Get the staff to donate time
What is work?
I create jobs
It’s a spectator sport
This work, which
I manage from afar.
Drive luxury wheels
What’s the hold up?
Who’s blocking my way?
The ‘75 Ford station wagon
Is it their home?
Throw a party
No concern for homeless
A romantic notion this ‘hobo jungle’
Not my world
It’s not my fault
I gave at the office.
Throw money at problems
It might help
Stop, see, care
If it really helps
Denying, refusing, unfeeling
I pay for a clear conscience
In surround sound…
Is out of sight;
Out of mind
Writing is good therapy. Haiku exercises the mind differently for different people.
It is a wonderful form of therapy. I will have to remember that. It fits with Why I Write Poetry. Thank you.
I love this. And you make a good case for poetry!
Thank you Kendi.
Poetry! Ah… the only genre of literature that gives solace, whether you write or read or even teach. I remember those days when poetry was the next lesson to be taught to the age group 16-17, I had an extra spring in my gait and a special charm in my voice. I know those blank, bored faces, looking sideways but even if one of them paid attention, the feeling of elation hit me.
Thanks for sharing your reflections about poetry Ivon… I prefer fewer words, symbols that convey a thousand words.
I love that Balroop: “the only genre … that gives solace.” Poetry should do this. There are some who write prose in a poetic way. Paulo Coehlo writes in that way.
Whew.. that last poem smacked me upside the head. I almost want to thank you!
Thank you. It is not the original poem. I did some slight editing to bring it to this state, but it carries the view I wanted to share as a 15 year old.
Amazing write. SO glad to see someone love poetry and write poetry for all the right reasons. Yes, I am biased… but who isn’t?
Thank you Sumyanna. We are each biased in some ways. The key is to understand them by lifting them into one’s consciousness.
I can’t even imagine not having poetry. It’s necessary to life. Wonderful post.
It is like breathing.
I only started writing poetry about 10 years ago when someone said ‘You should do something with your poetry’ POETRY??? I write poetry?
Now I realize it was a lost component of me. Found and cherished.
If others read and like, wonderful. BUT not the reason I write. I write to feel fulfilled, to connect to the unconnectible, those voices that give me the words.
I love your words ❤
Thank you Patrice. I wrote poetry when I was younger, paused for several years, and returned about 15 years ago. I still have the handwritten versions of that early poetry. When I write poetry, I feel more whole.
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I love poetry too. Every word counts.
Each words does.
Reblogged this on By the Mighty Mumford and commented:
FELLOW POET DITTOES!!!!