Supplement Essays 2014

16 years after enjoying a high school literary education rich in poetry, I am a literature teacher who barely teaches it.

So far this year, my 12th grade literature students have read nearly 200,000 words for my class. Today, I slip scripture into an analysis of In an education landscape that dramatically deemphasizes creative expression in favor of expository writing and prioritizes the analysis of non-literary texts, high school literature teachers have to negotiate between their preferences and the way the wind is blowing.

In his poem “Introduction to Poetry,” he writes: “all they want to do is tie the poem to a chair with rope/and torture a confession out of it./They begin beating it with a hose/to find out what it really means.”The point of reading a poem is not to try to “solve” it.

Still, that quantifiable process of demystification is precisely what teachers are encouraged to teach students, often in lieu of curating a powerful experience through literature.

When teaching students to read and evaluate every single word of a text, it makes sense to demonstrate the practice with a brief poem—like Gwendolyn Brooks’s “We Real Cool.”Students can learn how to utilize grammar in their own writing by studying how poets do—and do not—abide by traditional writing rules in their work.

Poetry can teach writing and grammar conventions by showing what happens when poets strip them away or pervert them for effect.Third, appeals to the best interest standard are often vague and indeterminate.After all, cases are usually controversial precisely because reasonable people disagree about what is or is not in a child’s best interest.The literature itself becomes secondary, boiled down to its Cliff’s Notes demi-glace.I haven’t wanted to risk that with the poems that enchanted me in my youth.First, reliance on the best interest standard is subjective.Second, it leads to behavior that is intolerant and polarizing.They made collages after slicing up dozens of “sources,” identifying the adjectives and adverbs, utilizing parallel structure, alliteration, assonance, and other figures of speech.Short poems make a complete textual analysis more manageable for English language learners.Poems have accounted for no more than 100.'s scenes of red-cheeked lads standing on desks and reciting verse, or of dowdy Dickinson imitators mooning on park benches, filling up journals with noxious chapbook fodder. I have always rejected these clichéd mischaracterizations born of ignorance, bad movies, and uninspired teaching. That sometimes means sacrifice, and poetry is often the first head to roll.There’s also the tired lessons about iambic pentameter and teachers wringing interpretations from cryptic stanzas, their students bewildered and chuckling. Yet I haven’t been stirred to fill my lessons with Pound and Eliot as my 11th grade teacher did. Yet poetry enables teachers to teach their students how to write, read, and understand any text.


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