One of the main advantages to being a Reading Specialist is the opportunity to pop in to a classroom or be a part of various learning communities throughout the school. A community that has been integral in helping me grow as a Reading Specialist is the ELA learning community. They organize curriculum, lesson plans, assessment, and everything else that is thrown their way. Amazing people.
Then April comes around and guess what? It’s poetry month. This either brings a look of dreaminess to an ELA teacher’s eyes or a look of fear, denial, or blank stares from others. There is a slight element of passive aggressive behavior in this group.
“You can go ahead and do that poetry unit if you want.”
“I love doing poetry with the kids.”
Part of the dilemma is that there are so many standards to cover in class, that poetry often takes a back seat to non-fiction writing. Additionally, the common core standards focus on being career ready and I think that whomever made the standards wasn’t considering ‘poet’ as a career. However, if I was preparing myself to be a human being that has a deep connection with life experiences, then poetry would be a great conduit.
That may be my issue with poetry as well. Are poetry writers taken seriously? When was the last time someone brought up a great poem or poet in casual conversation? It’s more along the lines, “Did you read the latest Margaret Atwood book?” As a writer, it seems that if you want someone to read your thoughts and ideas, poetry is not the vehicle to meet that requirement.
Poetry also has the reputation of being connected with a love sick teenager. My first boyfriend actually plagiarized a poem. I thought he was a genius and that I was his beautiful muse; and then, when I found out he stole it, I thought he was a manipulative egomaniac. How can you take seriously writing that represents an emotion as fleeting as romantic love?
As I’ve grown older though, I find myself drifting into using figurative language to try and explain the more difficult life experiences.
My brown-eyed, crooked grin, cherished love of my heart
Appears in a sliver of mirror
And then disappears with a kiss
Into the stream of elementary fish
Swimming towards school.
My slow journey
Through the veins and arteries
From my present and
Oh, so alive
In constant motion life.
To the world of
For the last breath
Of my Mother.
At one of my last trips to the public library before it was closed for the virus, I picked up Garrison Keillor’s compilation of Good Poems. About ten to fifteen years ago, I would listen to him read the daily selected poem on NPR on my way to work and it seemed that every poem provided an important insight into life or made me feel connected to humanity.
This April, I will put aside the constructed notion that poetry is not taken seriously and does not have value in creating strong writers. Based on my reflection in this post, I find no reason to balk at poetry. All I find are more reasons to embrace it.