Dear Student, What If You Were the Teacher?

Dear Student. What if you were the teacher? What if you had to conduct a lesson on this or that challenging poem? That's the best advice I can give to students who make the mistake of Googling "[poetry title] analysis" the minute they are assigned a paper. They may as well be typing "[poetry title] …

Continue reading Dear Student, What If You Were the Teacher?

Not Mirror, but Wobbly-Puddle Images

Have you ever written something (a letter, a poem) only to have it disappear on screen before you had a chance to save it? Poof. And so, with all these ideas in your head, you start anew. You have no choice. But the creature created in Version #2 is a relative rather than a replication …

Continue reading Not Mirror, but Wobbly-Puddle Images

How To Critique a Poem

Critiquing a poem isn't rocket science. For starters, don't use clichés, like "rocket science," but know what a cliché is, because spotting them will come in handy. Before we get started on how to critique a poem, though, let's start with how NOT to critique one. This assumes, of course, that the poet (or fellow …

Continue reading How To Critique a Poem

Self-Analysis as Creative Source

The best cure for writer's block is the writer herself. Consider, writer, your field of expertise. Within the goal lines you will surely find these players: self, ego, and consciousness. Now jump in the stream and, as the psychologists say, let yourself go. If you do, and you start with the prompt "I always have …

Continue reading Self-Analysis as Creative Source

14 Rules for Writing from Tim O’Brien

In Dad's Maybe Book, author Tim O'Brien spells out some rules for writing intended for his sons, Tad and Timmy. They are equally intended for the reader, who is serving as a vicarious child of the O'Briens reading along. Below are 14 Rules O'Brien shares, directly quoted from the book, and though he says "story" …

Continue reading 14 Rules for Writing from Tim O’Brien

Redefine, Sense, Identify, Write

As a teacher, I often made use of the brief riches to be found in two sources: poems and short documentary films. Preview, prepare writing or discussion (or both) prompts, show, and turn it over to students. For me, The New York Times' "Film Club" series was an indispensable source of watch-and-write material. Most often …

Continue reading Redefine, Sense, Identify, Write

For Teachers of Poetry, a Cautionary Tale

Yesterday I provided an excerpt from Rattle editor Tim Green's interview of the poet Kwame Dawes. Today, a final excerpt, this time touching on the damage "education" can inflict on poetry. "Part of the problem is that we teach poetry with a manual that is used for an exam. Just think about when people encounter …

Continue reading For Teachers of Poetry, a Cautionary Tale

Billy Collins, Animated

Billy Collins, one of the most recognized among American poets, did a wise thing years ago. He harnessed the power of video to many of his poems. This not only helped poet-writers with the art of imagery, it also gave reluctant poet-readers (often known as "students") a door into the not-so-bad-after-all genre of poetry. Given …

Continue reading Billy Collins, Animated

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 …

Continue reading How Teachers Can Make Challenging Poems Fun

“As Dead Now as Shakespeare’s Children”

David Kirby, another one of those poet slash professors (in this case at Florida State University), is known for long-ish narrative poems, often leavened freely with humor. It's an engaging combination, one I've been coming to know better since I picked up two of his books. As a short intro, I found an unusually (for …

Continue reading “As Dead Now as Shakespeare’s Children”