Can I make a confession? In my entire life I have dropped only two course because they were too difficult. One was college statistics. I stand behind that decision to drop 100%.
But the other class I dropped was a poetry class. In my defense it was a graduate school modern poetry class which is, indeed, a challenge. But my regret at having dropped that course stems from the fact that maybe it wasn’t too hard. Maybe I just wasn’t confident enough. ...and I didn't love it enough.
I used to love poetry as a kid. I have a truly embarrassing memory of me yelling to one of my sister’s friends that she could borrow my bike in 5 minutes. First, I "had to ride up and down the block a couple of times to 'catch my muse.'" Oh.my.
I was a poetry writing fiend and I loved it. So at what point did that change? I remember early level college classes reading “Ode to a Grecian Urn” and “The Raven” and e.e. cummings. All perfectly lovely and perfectly accessible works. Regardless, like most people I started to fear poetry. And then I started homeschooling my daughters. The very first thing my second grader and I did was open up a book of poetry that came with her curriculum and read “The Land of Nod.” How whimsical it was. How easily it transported me into the imagination of a child. And how delighted my daughter was by the words and the phrasing. I ended up printing it out and framing it in her room. That experience wasn’t isolated. In fact, both my 8 year-old and my almost 10 year-old have loved nearly every poem we have read together. And we have read a lot. The former English professor in me can’t help but occasionally talk about meter and rhyme scheme, but mostly... we just read them. Sometimes many times. Sometimes my kids ask to memorize them. Sometimes they stick in my mind and in my heart.
Even counting those early years as a poetess, I have never enjoyed poetry to the extent that I have this year. I think I enjoyed poetry so much this year because I didn't intend to teach it as a "thing to be mastered" like maths or grammar. My intent was to help my children love poetry. And they did. As I reflect on this experience, I think back to my own migration away from poetry, and I wonder if it’s becoming a common experience to have the love of poetry taught out of children. I wonder why this happens. I wonder if we focused on enjoying it and memorizing it, then they'd become curious, or at least willing, to study the forms and structures of it.
I’m starting to believe that a primary means of teaching poetry should be to simply find the beauty in it. To find what we can relate to. To find the humanity.
The rest with follow.
After all, kids like puzzles. After we have rested awhile in the words they’ll often start to look for patterns, internal rhyme, alliteration. They don’t need my direction. They can find it. I just need to provide the terms.
We live in a STEM-obsessed world. We measure the importance of things and people by how useful and productive they are. Poetry reminds us that things are "enough" just as they, in what they are. We crave ease and expediency and it even bleeds into our literary appreciation. How often do we listen to audio books for the sole reason that we can multitask? Poetry slows us down. It makes us think. It shows us beauty and it shows us our humanity. Children deserve those glimpses.-
Amanda Knapp is a wife, mother, writer, knitter, and reader of books. She earned her BA from Marquette University and her MA in English from Northern Illinois University. She credits reading and writing with helping her remember who she was after many years in the trenches with toddlers and infants. She currently spends almost all of her time homeschooling her four daughters and chronicling her thoughts on her website and Instagram page.
Haven't heard Episode 14: Poetry: Surprised By Joy! YET?
Thanks for sharing the joy :)