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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Making Synecdoche Work For You

We've been looking at a lot of poems that use personification of late. Here's one that employs the rhetorical device known as synecdoche. As defined by Mental Floss, a website that cleans the brain, "A synecdoche is a figure of speech in which a part or component of something is used to represent that whole—like …

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Football and Poetry: As Natural as Pepperoni and Pizza

If you polled one hundred high school football players, asking how well football and poetry go together, you'd probably find unanimous agreement that they don't. Emphatic agreement, even. Shut-up-and-pass-the-eye-black agreement, I dare say. But sometimes youth has much to learn. If you polled one hundred 50-year-old men who played high school football "back in the …

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The Poet, the President, and the People

Almost to the man, the Founding Fathers of this careening experiment we call the United States of America feared the eventual appearance of a demagogue. George Washington warned us about him. Alexander Hamilton warned us about him. John Adams warned us about him. Only John Adams went one better. He saw that a demagogue without …

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“Pepper Trees Brushing the Roof Like Rain”

Charles Bukowski is one of those enviable poets known even to people who think poetry is a joke. Although I had never read much of his work (until this week, thanks to The Pleasures of the Damned, which collects his poems from 1951-1993), I knew enough to consider him one of those characters who carefully …

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Bukowski’s Cat

We've all heard of Schrödinger's cat. He's sealed in a box, poor thing, with radioactive material and something called quantum superposition. That's geek speak for an experiment centered on being "simultaneously alive and dead," which is a tricky business, even for 9-lived felines who ain't feeling so fine. Less famous is Bukowski's Cat, apparently quantum-free. …

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Twin Poetry Peaks: Terrance Hayes and Jericho Brown

These past few weeks I have been reading and rereading poems from two contemporary poets of note, Terrance Hayes and Jericho Brown. Both Hayes' book, American Sonnet for My Past and Future Assassin, and Brown's, The Tradition, mix personal poetry with political, specifically living as a black man in post-Obama America. For the curious, here …

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