We’re now in our second week of celebrating National Poetry Month! Last week, we looked at narrative poetry. This week our focus is lyric poetry. A lyric poem is a short poem of songlike quality. Lyric poetry is a genre that, unlike epic and dramatic poetry, does not attempt to tell a story but instead is of a more personal nature while focusing on thought and emotion. The following resources from NCTE and ReadWriteThink.org support work with lyric poetry.
“Poetry Made Easy: Of Swag and Sense” shares how a ninth grade teacher used lyric poetry in her classroom. They explored how imagery reifies theme, how musical devices create mood, and how diction affects theme and mood. Connections were made later to concepts with the prose and drama they read thereafter.
“‘Beautiful’ Poetry: Tuning In to Poetry through Rhythm” taps into the music of
language, to introduce rhythm and beat in poetry, and help students hear metrical patterns.
John Donne provides a great example of lyric poetry. His poetry is noted for its vibrancy of language and is often considered the greatest love poet in the English language. “Donne’s ‘The Token’: A Lesson in the Fashion(ing) of Canon” examines the work of Donne as part of Renaissance literature.
To work more with lyric poetry, pass out an example of the Italian sonnet “What Lips My Lips Have Kissed, and Where, and Why (Sonnet XLIII)” by Edna St. Vincent Millay. Have three students read the poem aloud, one at a time. This technique, touted by Sheridan Blau, helps students to get immersed in the poem. By the third reading, students have had time to absorb the readings and think about possible meanings.
What other ideas are there for incorporating lyric poetry?
During National Poetry Month, we will be posting poems that originally ran in one of the ten journals published by NCTE. This poem “Jane Goodall” by a student working with Jan Burkins, Kim Yaris, and Kathryn Hoffmann-Thompson comes from Voices from the Middle:
Want to read more? Subscribe!
During National Poetry Month, we will be posting poems that originally ran in one of the ten journals published by NCTE. This poem “I STAND HERE” by the students of Emily Smith-Buster comes from Language Arts:
I STAND HERE
I stand here … in the street
Waiting to get hurt
They would bring
Justice to the
United States of America
Back in 1964
Back when the Civil Rights Act was signed
But they have killed,
And many more
I want to make history
Like Martin Luther King did
Like Obama did
Being a movement starter
Being the first black president …
So I stand here … in the street
Each year the month of April is set aside as National Poetry Month, a time to celebrate poets and their craft. Various events are held throughout the month by the Academy of American Poets and other poetry organizations. Follow along this month as we unpack some genres of poetry and find related resources from NCTE and ReadWriteThink.org.
We will kick off with looking at narrative poetry. This genre of poetry tells a story, usually with a human interest element. Narrative poetry combines poetic language with short-story elements and is thought to be the oldest type of poetry. “Poetry Preference Research: What Young Adults Tell Us They Enjoy” shares that the most popular type of poem chosen by a survey of students was the narrative.
Edgar Allen Poe wrote narrative poetry and one example is “The Raven”. The lesson plan “Modeling Reading and Analysis Processes with the Works of Edgar Allan Poe” invites students to explore reading strategies using “The Raven” and other works. Students read Poe’s works in both large- and small-group readings then conclude with a variety of projects.
Chaucer also provides examples of narrative poetry. However, high school students can see reading The Canterbury Tales as daunting. “Avoid the Edifice Complex and Enjoy Teaching Chaucer” shares lessons “combining the literary and the vulgar” that fully engage the students with the text. Another strategy is to explore The Prologue to The Canterbury Tales using wikis.
What narrative poems are used in your classroom?
Every March, NCTE hosts a March Madness Poetry Tournament. The idea is to create a basketball tournament-pairing chart like the NCAA does each year in March using poetry and to determine a final winner by reading the poems.
There are numerous ways to choose a “winner”:
- The students select the poems – The teacher lets the students select their favorite poems and then creates the tournament brackets. Two students read their poems in front of the class. The class votes and the winning poems advance to the next round. The process continues until the final four and eventual winner are selected.
- The teacher selects the poems – The teacher selects 64 (or 32) poems and reads them in pairs, one pair each day. The students select the one they like best. This poem is then declared a winner and advances along the tournament bracket. Another day and another match-up occurs and so on until all poems are read once. The second round of play starts then. Again, select two of the first-round winners in the proper order and brackets and read these again. Again, the class votes and so on until the final four and eventual winner are selected.
- A combination of student and teacher selected – The teacher and students select the poems. Then, a combination of the teacher and students read the poems.
Some specific ideas were shared in this article from the Language Arts Journal of Michigan.
Read about past tournaments and get a blank bracket-pairing chart to start your own tournament today!