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The Woman in This Poem: Women’s Voices in Poetry
The Nobel Prize winning poet, Czelaw Milosz, reminds us in his poem “Ars Poetica?” that when we read and write poetry “our house is open, there are no keys in the doors, / and invisible guests come in and out at will.”
One of the reasons to invite poetry into our lives and into the lives of our students is to meet our invisible guests—grief, joy, anger, doubt, and confusion. We read and write poetry from this deep hunger to know ourselves and the world.
Writing poetry is far more than counting 5-7-5 syllables on our fingers like when we write haiku, or coming up with a good rhyming word; when I teach poetry I want to guide my students in seeing the world with poet’s eyes. Here is a brief list of what it means to see the world with poet’s eyes:
Seeing the World Like a Poet
Observe the small moments around us
Find poetry in the ordinary
See beauty in the ugly
Are curious and filled with wonder
Love the meaning the sounds of words
Look at the world in a new way
Pay attention to and write from all our feelings
Give voice to the unspeakable
Why Teach Poetry in Schools?
Poetry has often been pushed to the end of the year when all of the important teaching is over, and when the testing is finished, because we often don’t perceive poetry as helping students academically. I believe that poetry can be the doorway into literacy for students especially struggling students. Here are some reasons to teach poetry throughout the year:
- Poetry is a highly effective way to promote fluency.
- Poetry’s short, spare, and concise format is often more manageable to read, especially for struggling or reluctant readers.
- Poetry’s range of subject matter is vast and varied, and can help build children’s interests for writing.
- Poetry demonstrates rich, precise, imaginative language.
- Through poetry students can practice inferential thinking in text that is short yet filled with meaning.
- Poetry gives voice to children’s feelings about themselves and the world, and helps them make a personal connection to literature.
- Poetry can help create a more relaxed and positive classroom atmosphere.
Where Do I Find Poetry?
I open my eyes and what do I see?
Poetry spinning all around me!
In small ants trailing over the ground,
bulldozing dry earth into cave and mound.
In a hundred grains of ocean sand,
that I cradle in the palm of my hand.
In a lullaby of April rain,
tapping softly on my window pane.
In trees dancing on a windy day,
when sky is wrinkled and elephant gray.
Poetry, poetry! Can be found
in, out, and all around.
But take a look inside your heart,
that’s where a poem truly likes to start.
from Big Book in Climb Inside a Poem: Reading and Writing Poetry Across the Year by Georgia Heard and Lester Laminack (firsthand, An imprint of Heinemann, 2008)
Try This with Students (after reading my poem “Where do I Find Poetry”):
Ask students where they find poetry in their lives? Write a whole class shared poem, writing down specific places where students find poetry, or students can write their own independent poems.
In Country Hills Elementary School Coral Springs, Florida, first grade students were studying animals. Look at all the poetry they found!
Teaching Poetry Books: