Summer vacation has begun, and so, therefore, also has my quest to complete all the creative tasks that I start or germinate during the school year. Today, I am sitting in my local coffee shop going through an old notebook of writing ideas, and I came across some notes from September 20-22, 2002. Though the notes are not titled (as I am always encouraging my students to do!), I have been able to deduce that they are from my first visit to the Dodge Poetry Festival which at that time was held in Waterloo, NJ. I attended High School Teachers’ Day on Friday and stayed for the general sessions on Saturday and Sunday. It was a wonderful experience. Now that the festival is held in Newark, NJ, it is possible for me to bring my students to the High School Students’ Day. If you are a teacher and can get to Newark for a day trip, I highly recommend the Dodge. It is an amazing experience for both you and your students. Teach them through experience that poetry is not a dead white man’s art form. Poetry is a living art form, and there are many amazing living poets practicing their art right now.
Here are a few notes from that weekend that I wrote down then and still feel connected to now:
If you don’t begin in imitation, you won’t go very far in poetry.
“The more poetry you read, the more original your poetry will be and the less poetry you read, the more clichéd your poetry will be.” Edward Hirsch
When we read poetry, we are looking for something.
How to Teach Poetry: cross the line between literature and creative writing. Make them write; make them follow the beat; it doesn’t have to make sense; make them see the care and the craft.
Coleridge hated the sound of his own name; like to be called STC. (Fun Fact!)
If your writing doesn’t keep you up at night, it won’t keep your reader up at night.
Memorization is important.
Reading a poem well shows better understanding than a test/writing.
Have a poem on you at all times!
Ground covered: poems have to move/change you; begins in one place, ends in another; how did we get there?
Read with your students not to them.
Poetry is a participatory experience.
A lot of teaching includes steering the student to the right poet.
Teach poetry in reverse chronology.
Lyric poems are not about history; they are about time, immortality.
Student Frustration: they speak English, the read English, but they don’t understand this; it causes frustration, discouragement. They feel inadequate and then become hostile. (***Current Note: We must help ease that frustration; we must lead them to poetry in a way that allows them access.)
Chain poem: Give them the first line and give them a crazy first name. Help them realize that they don’t have cooperate with the ideas of the first line.
These are most of the notes from the first day. Think about your poetry; think about your teaching. I bolded a few lines that I find most important. Which notes resonate with you? Comment below with your favorite line from above or add your own note.