Poetic scenes from the classroom

“Poetry is the use of words where music is heard but none is playing.” — Elvis Costello

Each semester, I spend one of my feature writing classes using poetry to emphasize the importance of writing with cadence, imagery and precision. I tell students they should read poetry to improve their skills, range and imagination. As I prepared the lesson, I emailed the students, asking them to send me their favorite poems.

Within two minutes, I got this one by E.E. Cummings, which is also one of my favorites. Over the course of the next few days, I got this, and this, and this, and this, and this. (Love and angst, which pretty much sums up college.) In all, I got eight poems, which isn’t great from a class of 20 students, but it’s better than last semester when only two students sent me their favorites.

So far, so good.

In class on Monday, after my lecture, I asked the students to talk about their choices. It was going fine. The first few students said they were introduced to their poems in high school.

I asked one of the three male students about his choice: “Well, I Googled ‘inspirational poetry….'”

We all laughed and he explained his choice.

I went to the next guy, and he said, “Well, I Googled ‘good poems….'”

By the time I got to the third male student, I said, “You’d better not mention Google.”

My conclusion: I have three types of students: Those who read poetry; those who follow directions even if they don’t read poetry; and those who ignore me entirely.

This coming Monday, I’m doing music. I’m encouraged.

“Poetry is thoughts that breathe, and words that burn.” — Thomas Gray

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