How Teachers Can Make Challenging Poems Fun

For reasons that border on unreasonable, elementary-aged students love poetry (usually rhyming) and middle- and high school-aged students detest it (especially when they are tested on it). Perhaps this is because of stodgy assigned works from textbooks and/or old warhorses that continually get trotted out as assigned readings. Perhaps it is because students are often …

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Defining Poetry? Good Luck.

In his essay, "Notes on Poetry and Philosophy," Charles Simic takes a shot at defining poetry. It is a moving target, to say the least. One that zig-zags. But that hasn't stopped the poets and the philosophers from trying. Let's listen in on an excerpt from Simic's essay: "Poetry is not just 'a verbal universe …

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“All Genuine Poetry in My View Is Antipoetry.”

Like Tony Hoagland, Charles Simic is no one-trick pony. In addition to his prowess in poetry, he knows his way around an essay, too. Yesterday, reading "Notes on Poetry and Philosophy," I noted much of interest, both from Simic and from the poets and philosophers he quotes. For instance, Wallace Stevens once said that the …

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When the World Slaps You, Poetry…

One of the themes running through Gregory Orr's book,  Poetry as Survival, is the role of trauma and adversity in the creative process. The "survival" in Orr's title speaks to the lyric poet's need to make sense of past difficulty, hardship, and pain. One poet who Orr quotes is Stanley Kunitz. In the first, more …

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What’s in a Name? More Than You’d Think.

Lead-off batters. In baseball, they're the table setters. The speed. The possibility and the hope facing a first pitch. In a poetry collection, the first poem is no small matter, either. St. Billy of Collins says it is damn near everything when it comes to the Department of Importance (a branch of the Department of …

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News Flash: Poetry Matters Again!

The September 2018 issue of The Atlantic --- a bit briny as usual --- just beached itself in my mailbox and lo, there was a feature article on poetry in it! What's more, it's headline proclaimed ("Dewey Wins!"-like) "How Poetry Came to Matter Again." Which means, in case you haven't been paying attention, that poetry hasn't …

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Donald Hall on Poetry: Revising, Sharing, & Critiquing

While reading The Selected Poems of Donald Hall, I jumped to the "Postscriptum," where Hall offers up some thoughts on poetry writing -- and especially on poetry sharing with someone who could give competent feedback. In Hall's lucky case, he was married to that person, fellow poet Jane Kenyon, until she died of leukemia at the ridiculously …

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A Few Words from St. Billy of Collins

Returning to the book, Light the Dark (see yesterday's post), let's look for illumination in Billy Collins' essay included in that collection. In it he references an earlier essay he wrote called "Poetry, Pleasure, and the Hedonist Reader." I sought it on-line and instead found the essay that's in this book, which was originally written for The …

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