During National Poetry Month, we will be posting poems that originally ran in one of the ten journals published by NCTE. This poem “Poetry Out Loud” by Jonathan S. Loper comes from English Journal:
Poetry Out Loud
(for Nicole Louw, 2015 Poetry Out Loud Alabama Champion)
A skinny Puerto Rican boy,
proud of his country (ashamed of his country),
confidently performs the naked buttocks of William
Carlos Williams’s “Danse Russe,”
looks in his mirror, and finds
a skinny Puerto Rican poet.
An imaginative South African American girl from
Alabama agrees (but disagrees) with a first-generation
American immigrant who remarks—sharing
his corrupted vision of politicians, businessmen,
and lovers—that Alabama is the most racist
place on earth. She voices Tony Hoagland’s
ageless speaker: “This is not a test / and everybody passes.”
The Puerto Rican boy and South African Alabamian girl
redefine American, finding a shared language to teach each other
a new way to speak—to discover on stage the voices
and Puerto Rico
and unfurl in the rhythms of
poetry out loud.
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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:
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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?