I love poetry, and as a high school English teacher, I would like my students to enjoy it as much as I do. While this may be an inherently futile endeavor, I continue to fight the good fight anyway and make pitches for my favorite poems and poets. If I’m lucky, the students who’ve learned to hate poetry may come to dislike like it perhaps a little bit less. At the very least, I try my best to repair the damage done by their former (albeit well-meaning) teachers who managed to drive the love of verse out of my students somewhere between kindergarten and junior high.
One thing my school did this year to promote the enjoyment of poetry was participate in “Poem In Your Pocket Day,” an exercise sponsored by Poets.org and The Academy of American Poets. The idea is simple. On Thursday, April 29, students are encouraged to keep copies of their favorite poems in their pockets to share with friends, teachers, co-workers, and family. Our school librarian even organized a prize drawing for students who showed their poems to their English teachers.
The results of the event were both interesting and encouraging. First of all, more than a quarter of my students carried poems with them to class—a much higher percentage than I anticipated. Some of the poems were classics, others were written by contemporary authors, a few were song lyrics (a valid form of poetic expression, in my opinion). The encouraging thing was that students seemed genuinely excited about sharing their poems with their classmates, and most insisted on reading the poems aloud so that the words could have maximum impact. Perhaps poetry as an art form is not dead after all.
By the way, the poem I carried in my pocket was one by Stephen Crane:
A man said to the universe:
“Sir, I exist!”
“However,” replied the universe,
“The fact has not created in me
A sense of obligation.”
I love that poem.
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