Tuesday, April 12, 2005

No Room For Gloom; Poetry in Bloom

Well, Dana Gioia's predicting the end of civilized thought again (Thanks Poetry Daily for that little ray of sunstroke). Or still. But his idea that reading being in decline is the reason people are less informed on history and less able to write (among other failures) really misses the point for me (which I think lies somewhere in education: a need to better teach the process of critical analysis). But I'm not going to get into that now.

And the Book of the Month club is celebrating National Poetry Month by promoting its special edition of Leaves of Grass. I love Whitman as much as most people, but to me, this completely misses the boat on celebrating all the exciting things going on in poetry TODAY (like the NEW books that BOMC professes to want to sell you). But that's not for today either.

I had my first workshopping experience of the season yesterday and it was refreshing and recharging in that way that only working with children can be. There are too many high points to hit them all, but here are a few:

  • I do an exercise where I hand out flashcards with objects on them and have the students write about the thing on the card but never mention its name (I use the Charles Malam poem here, and others, as examples first). Then when volunteers read their poems aloud, we all guess at the thing they're writing about. When the exercise goes well, the guesses are all over the place, meaning the poem has left lots of room to create an appropriate image. We routinely had guesses that included the animate and inanimate, people and clothing, and of course, desserts.
  • To start the kids thinking, I like to get them to tell me what makes a poem. Usually I get "rhyme" and "rhythm" and lots of answers that point toward form. This discussion in this group of grammar schoolers actually led to the question: "Does a poem need to have words in it?" I don't care what your opinion of Vizpo (visual poetry - poetry specifically without words other than a title) is, that's a great, creative question.
  • In writing a comparison poem, the students found all sorts of interesting things to define themselves (and their friends, and their cars, and me...). I don't know if they all know what "metaphor" means, but they can sure all deliver one.
So much more, but I'm already late for doing other things, and I need to get to my own pen and capture the energy this class was so generous to give to me. Two more workshops coming up next week; more then.


32poems said...

The Gioia articles reminds me of the negativity conversation we had on my blog. Why can't the news ever be good? We all know the answer is that no one would read it.

We humans seem attracted to the negative.

Pack Bringley said...

Hey, David. What's the deal with these poetry workshops, exactly? Is this volunteer work you do or a gig you have? Sounds fantastic.

Anonymous said...

Amazing isn't it that when given the incentive, the imagination of children can be as fertile as those proverbial "Leaves of Grass"?