Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Poetry Feelings

Poetry is a way to express feelings.
Poetry rhymes, it's for girls, it's boring.
It's too hard!
Writing poetry is not part of the new standards, no can do.
I like reading poetry, but I'm no poet.
Poetry is something we do after the testing, so can you come visit our school in June?

We hear these arguments all the time, from teachers whose own education consisted of serial lessons in the follies of perfect form (points off for downbeat dyslexia) and "what does this really mean," intimidation.  From welcoming principals who smile indulgently as if a visiting poet is something akin to birthday cupcakes, a useless indulgence inducing real school work interruptus. From curriculum directors who aren't necessarily poetry adverse but have been benchmarked into scripts and graphs that only track the results of timed bubble tests and not careful or critical thinking.

First...on the feeling thing?  Maybe.  But, I'm mad, I'm so mad, I'm very very mad, grrrrrr may be writing about a feeling, but it is hardly a poem.  Poems are more often first person narratives, linking images to words that evoke a response in the reader or listener.  Poetry demands that we stop, look, and listen, noticing the details and putting them into words.  Spoiler alert, basically, the world doesn't care if you are hurt, angry or elated.  What they are interested in is when you the writer draws on images that make the say, ah, or whew, ick, or ouch.  Don't believe me?  How about this from perhaps the most quoted poet of all time:

Poetry is about experiences.  And that means the experiences we have in a flower strewn meadow, inner city street corner, kitchen table, or science or math class.  In order to write a poem we have to look at a subject carefully and contextually.  We have to think about it.

Poetry can take a lot of different forms, but it is definitely not a cupcake.

Poetry is the water and flour.