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Saturday, October 16, 2010

Paddling Around in the What-Makes-Us-Human Puddle

I came across a blog by a poet I'd never heard of. Her name is Stephanie Goehring. I seems she recently up and moved to Iowa to attend/teach at the Iowa Writer's Workshop in Iowa City. Here's her poem Epic, which I found at 42opus and really liked. But best of all, this photo of a chalkboard with her students answer to the question "What don't you like about poetry"?

Didn't I do a similar brainstorm with my students last week? Ask them why they didn't like poetry, then write it up on the board? Okay, hers is an honest-to-goodness, old-fashioned chalkboard and mine is a white board, but same thing right?




I'm generally not one to make much of coincidences (even though I know they tend to increase exponentially when I am doing the poetry writing thing), but I got a kick out of the randomness of finding another teacher of poetry doing the same "why don't you like poetry" thang with her students in another part of the country. And the similar responses the students gave! No surprise there, really. I mean, I wasn't expecting her students, or my students, or anyone's students, to say "I love poetry!" Because that would be the equivalent of a young man saying "Today I start wearing skirts!"

But I've been thinking a lot about what writing and reading poems, and whether these are necessary acts for a culture to be engaged in. I've heard it said that contemporary society's art and culture have been replaced by the Super Bowl and the Olympics, when we all tune in to watch the pomp and circumstance--Bruce Springsteen doing his half time show, the elaborate synchronized dances at the opening ceremonies of the Games.

Poetry in English went underground--when? 1900? 1860? 1266? 1492? Did everything fall apart poetry-wise with the invention of the printing press, when poetry no longer had to be rhyme-y and sing-songy, memorizable? Beowulfian?

If you are reading this, you will tell me poetry is not dead. But you are most likely poets, or at least avid reader of poetry. In other words, out of touch with reality.

As am I. In a big way. Or a hopeless believer in winning over the disinterested, the uninspired, the lovers of plot.

I guess you could say I like a challenge.


Kathleen said...

I love random coincidii! Loved your board and her board! And, yes, I, too, am out of touch with "reality." See? I must be, as I put it in irony marks.

Pam said...

I think people don't like to read poetry because they don't encounter it anywhere, particularly contemporary poetry. If they do read poetry, it's in school, often in isolated units and not as part of a larger study..and then it's all about analysis. Our exposure to poetry starts with Shel Silverstein or Jack Prelutsky and ends there until high school when suddenly we're reading a bit of Shakespeare or Dickinson or some haiku. There's a better way engage kids early on with both the reading and writing of poetry. Teach them early, immerse them in it and continue to expand their capacity and endurance for poetry into secondary school and beyond-- then college students, indeed adults in general, might not have such negative reactions.

Stephanie said...

Thanks for posting on this. It's funny; I recently got my midterm evaluations from my students -- and this is a general education literature course for students who are not English majors -- and I had a good number of students say what they've enjoyed most so far was our poetry unit, even though we filled the chalkboard with reasons they hated poetry at the beginning of that unit.

I think that's the best evidence that it's not dead. I think it's most alive when people who hate it suddenly don't.

Martha Silano said...

Kathleen: happy to be out of touch with you!

Pam: Yes, I agree--that's why we should all support Writers in the Schools programs, where creative writers teach K-12 kids what poetry is.

林翊娟 said...

IS VERY GOOD..............................

Stephanie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Martha Silano said...

Stephanie: Congrats on those positive midterm evals! I do believe students will think poetry is boring until we show them it's not. Way to go!