National Poetry Month is just around the corner, and although I teach and use poetry all year, I do make a fuss about all things poetical in April. This book spine poem really wrote itself as I revisited some of my favorite resources:
Pass the Poetry, Please!
For the Good of the Earth and the Sun
Awakening the Heart
I’ve written before about using poetry with students (here, here and here) and I know I’ll be writing about it again. For now, here’s a snippit of the wisdom contained within each of these excellent resources.
“Poetry is so many things besides the shiver down the spine.” (p. 7)
Jane Yolen is one of my all-time favorite authors. In Take Joy: A Writers Guide to Loving the Craft (Writers Digest Books, 2006), her wisdom and passion for writing permeate every page.
“…poetry, at it’s most basic, is a short, lyrical response to the world. It is emotion under extreme pressure or recollection in a small space. It is the coal of experience so compressed it becomes a diamond.” (p. 87)
For the Good of the Earth and the Sun: Teaching Poetry (Heinemann, 1989), by Georgia Heard, is filled with practical advice and inspiration. In chapter 5, “Language: The Poet’s Paint,” she offers this:
“Sometimes I pretend a word is like a geode: rough and ordinary on the outside, hiding a whole world of sparkling beauty inside. My job as a poet is to crack the words open to find that inner treasure.” (p. 74)
Wondrous Words: Writers and Writing in the Elementary Classroom (NCTE, 1999), by Katie Wood Ray, was a revelation to me. Here were the answers I’d been looking for about how to teach writing. Ray’s thoughts about read aloud confirm what we know in our hearts:
“Our students need to be…fortunate enough to be read to every single day by someone who values wondrous words and knows how to bring the sounds of those words to life in the listening writer’s ears and mind and heart.” (p. 69)
Georgia Heard offers more thoughts about teaching poetry in Awakening the Heart: Exploring Poetry in Elementary and Middle School (Heinemann, 1999).
“One of the most important life lessons that writing and reading poetry can teach our students is to help them reach into their well of feelings–their emotional lives–like no other form of writing can.” (p. xvii)
Ralph Fletcher wrote Poetry Matters: Writing a Poem From the Inside Out (HarperTrophy, 2002) for kids, but it’s one of my favorite books about the craft of poetry. Speaking directly to children, he advises them
“There is poetry everywhere. [Write] What you wonder about. In my book A Writer’s Notebook, I wrote a chapter on ‘fierce wonderings’ and ‘bottomless questions.’ These are the kinds of haunting questions you can live and ponder but never really answer. Not surprisingly, these ‘wonderfull’ questions provide great grist for poems.” (p. 51)