Teaching the Art of Poetry: The Moves

Teaching the Art of Poetry: The Moves

Teaching the Art of Poetry: The Moves

Teaching the Art of Poetry: The Moves


Concise and accessible, this guide to teaching the art of poetry from Shakespeare to contemporary poets enables anyone to learn about how poets approach their art. Teachers can use this book to explore any facet or era of poetry. Any reader can use it as an entryway into the art of poetry. Teaching the Art of Poetry shows poetry as a multi-faceted artistic process rather than a mystery on a pedestal. It demystifies the art of poetry by providing specific historical, social, and aesthetic contexts for each element of the art. It is a nuts-and-bolts approach that encourages teachers and students to work with poetry as a studio art--something to be explored, challenged, assembled and reassembled, imagined, and studied--all the things that an artist does to present poetry as a search for meaning. This book advocates poetry as an essential tool for aesthetic, cultural, and linguistic literacy. It portrays poetry as an art rather than a knowledge base, and methods for integrating the art of poetry into the school curriculum. The authors' intention is not to fill gaps; it is to change how poetry is presented in the classroom, to change how it is taught and how students think about it.
Teaching the Art of Poetry:

• Emphasizes hands-on experiences. Over 160 exercises focus attention on the dynamics of the art of poetry. Activities include group work, peer editing, critical thinking skills, revising drafts, focused reading, oral communication, listening skills, and vocabulary, as well as mechanics and usage.

• Features a week-long lesson plan in each chapter to aid the teacher. These relate the main aspects of each chapter to classroom activities and, in addition, include a "Beyond the Week" section to promote further investigation of the topic.

• Promotes an integrated approach to poetry. The examples used in each chapter show poetry as a living tradition.

• Makes extensive use of complete poems along with extracts from many others.

• Does not talk down to teachers--is teacher oriented and jargon free.


Poetry frightens. Over the years when it has come up in conversation that we write poems, dozens of people from all walks of life have paused and then diffidently or straightforwardly confided that poetry means nothing to them. We have heard in those various voices puzzlement, anger, longing, contempt, and very often a note of betrayal, of having been denied a right that goes with speaking, reading, and writing a language. They have shaken their heads, as if to forswear the very notion of poetry.

In truth, poetry--to a degree--should frighten. Poems cannot be condensed, systematized, or quantified. Poetry concisely registers on the nerves the whole skein of human emotions. It harrows, enthralls, awes, dazzles, confides. As the African-American poet Walter Dancy has written, "A poet is a mind sailor soul dweller and teller of heartbeats." Poetry in the words of Langston Hughes is "the human soul entire, squeezed like a lemon or lime, drop by drop, into atomic words." According to Nobel prize winner Joseph Brodsky, "Poetry is essentially the soul's search for its release in language."

These are heady definitions but not unfocused ones. Although all three poets use the word "soul," there is nothing fuzzy about that word. The soul is the depth of our being and poetry is one means of sounding that depth. To be sure, not every poem seeks that intensity but as the lives and works of many poets show, poetry emphatically embraces that quest. It isn't fainthearted. It isn't an aspirin or a tonic. It isn't entertainment. A poem doesn't wile away time; it engages our fleetingness and makes it articulate. It seizes time and shapes it.

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