Wednesday, May 6, 2009

What Is Poetry?

My chore today is compiling and typing an end of semester poetry booklet for my co-op class. I'm sure that this little book will be treasured for years by the loving parents of my students. Someplace, 8 years from now when high school graduation is upon the youngest of them there it will be on the brag table - the book where their poems were published back when they were in the 4th grade. Their own poems will have been lovingly highlighted and their grandmothers will comment on how their budding genius was detectable even back then.


In my dreams.

Truthfully, most of the poetry that my students turned in for the booklet is childish and ordinary. Some of those I revved up a little in the editing process with slightly better punctuation and spacing, and nice fonts. Some of it is so deliciously hideous that I very carefully typed it exactly as it was turned in to me, and fondly set the name of the offending author at the bottom in slightly larger type. What I don't get is that I heard better poetry from some of them during the semester, but when I let them choose what they wanted printed what they gave me - well - some of it was hard to type.

I spoke endlessly about imagery, metaphor, blank verse, word pictures, cadence, style. We read dozens of great poems of lots of types and styles. They brought in examples of poetry they liked, read it, and we talked about what made it enjoyable. We talked about what makes a poem work. We talked about why some poetry and poets are great. I knew that I would not receive any great poetry - I never expected it. What I received from their creative little pens were horrid rhyme schemes, banal story lines, and ickydisjointedgraceless meter. I had hoped for a little better.

Maybe the lesson wherein I proclaimed that the words were their own, and they could use them as they pleased sunk just a little too deep.

Nevertheless, I'm certain that this booklet will surface in a few households many years from now. It'll make great black mail material.

Cheers! ~M.E.

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