I was recently asked by an old teacher of mine to return to my high school for a day early in December and run a poetry workshop as an end-of-year activity. I thought about it for a while – 16 year olds can be harsh. How do you teach poetry? What if they don’t buy my “I-know-about-writing” act?
Eventually I accepted though.
Uni is finished for the semester. I’m waiting on a call or letter from RMIT, started this new job, writing… So my spare time now is all about this poetry workshop.
I think the best way to do it is by going through a few conventions/techniques, and attaching an example and an exercise to each. The session only goes for 90 minutes so I can’t get too far into things, but they’re young’uns so that’s probably good.
What I’m struggling with is what to use as examples. These kids are 16, I don’t remember what poetry I studied (if any) at that age. I’m thinking about using some Robert Adamson stuff as an example of the use of metaphor, he does that ridiculously well. Other than this, I’m a bit lost as to what to use.
So if anyone reading this here fine blog remembers what they studied in the way of poetry at the age of 16, please oh please comment and let me know. I’d really appreciate some direction, I’d hate to confuse these kids with non-accessible stuff and scare them off writing, or discussing it with the class…
23/11/2009 at 4:36 pm
hrmmm i vaguely recall sonnets, but mainly that’s because of ben.
i only used to write prose poetry because i failed at rhyming and beats and the like.
maybe just let them know that poetry is just a form of expression and the like.
maybe song lyrics as well, that seems modern and stuff.
gosh i have no idea.
and am now rambling…
23/11/2009 at 5:38 pm
Thanks Nicole…I remember when Ben started writing sonnets for you, I was blown away by how smart the man is.
How I miss our literature class!
I do like the idea of lyrics though, I remember bringing a copy of the lyrics to “Strange Fruit” (Billy Holiday, Jeff Buckley, many others) to study as a piece of poetry in Ms Weston’s class.
I’m rambling too…my point is that lyrics are a good idea and may well be just as effective as actual poetry.
24/11/2009 at 12:30 pm
ha ha yes. that lyrics assignment was my fave in lit.
i think i brought in a cat empire song. epic fun.
lyrics speak to everyone, whereas poetry doesn’t always.
30/11/2009 at 2:28 am
Sounds like a sensitive task but a great opportunity, too—best of luck to you! I didn’t appreciate poetry until I was out of high school, and I think that this had a lot to do with how it was taught to me back then.
I wish someone had stressed to me that reading poetry is more than just solving a verbal Rubik’s cube for a grade. I also wish someone had stressed to me that writing poetry was more than just making a journal entry coded in smart, strange words. I don’t know how that works as advice, except maybe to say that this perception of poetry might be still common among guys that age.
30/11/2009 at 5:56 am
Thanks for such a helpful comment – I’ll keep these things in mind.
I agree, I had trouble with poetry up until year 12, and even then it was enjoyable only because I knew my teacher so well.
I read a Marc Bamuthi Joseph essay a while ago that said something about all the traditional poets belongin in “a dead-white-guy vaccuum that you were never meant to be a part of”… it’s so true, poetry for me needs to have some currency. Traditional stuff is of course so influential for a reason, but I really appreciate local journals’ work.