Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Poetry and Poets Online

I agree with Ian Ruderman, in his post at Media Infusion, that one of the joys of teaching English at any level is teaching students to read, interpret and experience literature, whether it is a novel chapter, play or memoir. Poetry, though, can always be a challenge, especially when loud sighs, looks of despair or folded arms follow your cheery distribution or out loud reading of a poem you personally love. Ruderman's post offers some advice for teaching poetry at the secondary level and highlights some great online resources for teaching, appreciating, and reading poetry.

Ruderman first points out some excellent print sources he's found helpful. The main piece of technology he uses in his classes is a projector to show a poem to a whole class and center discussion. But audio and video also play a great role in his teaching and help bring what can seem complicated and dead on paper to life for middle schoolers and others:
  • Fooling with Words with Bill Moyers features video clips of poets reading their work at the Dodge Poetry Festival. Poets featured include Amiri Baraka, Sharon Olds, W. S. Merwin, Stanley Kunitz and Lucille Clifton. In addition to readings (marked with an R), there are brief interviews with some of the poets. The site also has a teachers guide and a few lesson plans.
  • The Favorite Poem Project features videos of people, some famous, most not, reading and discussing poems they especially like or that have had a significant impact upon them. The project is part of a regular feature on the PBS NewsHour and the videos are also included in the Library of Congress recorded poetry and literature archive. Fifty videos show people ranging from a college professor to a reverend to poet Stanley Kunitz reading and talking about poems. A link for teachers has links to lesson plans for middle school and information on the annual Summer Poetry Institutes for Educators.
  • The Poetry Foundation has audio files of poems being read by poets and others. You can search for poems by category or theme or by poet name. Each day, an audio reading of a poem is featured (Tuesday's featured audio was C. Dale Young, who went to the same MFA program as I did, reading and discussing the origins of his poem "Corpus Medicum"). An audio and podcasts link takes you right to a page of individual poems that can be listened to at the site (but not downloaded to save for later). Because of the Foundation's link to Poetry magazine, you can also check out current issues for more poems, articles and discussions.
  • The PBS Online NewsHour site also has a page dedicated to the NewsHour poetry series. You can also find stories on poets and poetry, plus interviews with contemporary poets like Li-Young Lee, Joy Harjo, Mary Jo Salter and Ghassan Zaqtan.
  • Teachers' Domain is working on a poetry page that should be up and running by the end of April. The site will feature videos of poems being read, lesson plans and other tools for teachers.
Ruderman ends with links to poems online that he has found useful for his classes, great for items not found in an anthology or for home study without a hundreds-pages-long poetry anthology.

SOURCE: "Taking the Pain Out of Poetry" April 2008
photo courtesy of Glutnix, used under this Creative Commons license

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