I’m so proud of myself. Excuse me for gloating, but I had a masterful stoke of teaching this week. I tricked my students into loving poetry. How? I told them I’m not going to make them write poems.
I hated writing poetry when I was at school. I know only too well that look of anguish on a boys face when a teacher mentions poetry. And so, when I handed out Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven as the class text for the week, I saw the rolling eyes; I heard the assumptions about what’s coming next, and tried hard to conceal my smirk as the shoulders around the room slumped.
‘Don’t worry,’ I told them, ‘I’m not making you write poems.’
I read the poem to them; did my best James Earl Jones rendition. Then, I simply gushed about how much I loved it. The imagery of ‘each dying ember wroughting it’s ghost upon the floor,’ and the glorious pause before – ‘darkness there and nothing more.’ This is epic storytelling; every word carefully chosen for meaning and tempo and rhythm and the lost Lenore.
We talked about the context from when this was written; before T.V., movies, video games. We discussed poetry as entertainment – about going and listening to poetry being performed like seeing a band or watching a movie.
And I left it that – with one little comment, ‘You know, you really should think about reading a little poetry, I’m sure if you looked you’d find something you like.’
It only took one student.
‘Who’s your favourite poet, Mr Wise?’
Within minutes, the class was quoting Caged Bird by Maya Angelou and laughing at their own Andy Griffith limericks.
I haven’t asked them write anything yet. I don’t think I will.
This is a re-blog post originally posted by Chris Wise and published with kind permission.