Thursday, July 29, 2010

Poetry = Huh?

So yeah. After sketching a unit outline for 1984, I glanced at the next unit (poetry & presentation). And I realized that I hadn't thought much about poetry except as a vehicle for presentation. But I think there's gotta be more to it than that. That's how I came up with my essential question for the poetry part of the unit:

Why do people create poems instead of just saying what they actually mean? What is UP with that?

The only problem is I don't have an answer. Like, ANY answer. And what if we go through the unit and the answer we come up with is "We have no clue"?!

Help please?!

7 comments:

Joan said...

Well, I tell my students that we use figurative language and poetry to paint a deeper and more colorful picture of our idea. Even the sound of the words we use can make that painting richer and more descriptive.

I use the book "Love that dog" to help me teach my poetry unit. The main character is a boy their age (6th grade) and he writes like they write. But he gets better and he is so clever. They also keep a poetry notebook and create their own anthology.

Clix said...

But see, you can use figurative language and imagery in prose. What is it - besides non-standard English and line breaks - that makes it poetry?

sarah said...

ya know, idk either. the first things that came to mind was because they want us to work for an answer.

as far as form: rhythm, rhyme, lack of dialogue but the some of the modern stuff have all of this- and so does the odyssey and that's poetry right?

i like to compare poetry to the fine art of getting a boyfriend or girlfriend. :P you can't give everything away from the get go because the chase is part of the fun, and so is being coy. These things make getting the person in the end so much better than if you just got them with no work. (And the rom-com industry would die a sad, lonely, very quick death.) Poetry's the same way...having to work for meaning, going back over and over, discovering the layers makes 'getting it' in the end worth something.

but really...idk.

Stephanie said...

I usually get into some discussion of line and density -- with poetry the line is the building block and so we have to think about how the poem has been constructed in a different way than how we look at a paragraph and how it is constructed -- by the sentence. How does each line work and mean separately and then in combination?

But I think density is important, too. A poet is concerned with a conflict or complexity just as a novelist or short story writer, but the poet deals with that complexity in a "condensed" manner which is part of what makes it so powerful.

I think the discussion is the important thing and I don't think you will end up without "a clue" -- the question is too good for that :)

Magical Mystical Teacher said...

This poem by Archibald MacLeish won't help you at all, but it's probably the truest answer to your question:

A poem should be palpable and mute
As a globed fruit

Dumb
As old medallions to the thumb

Silent as the sleeve-worn stone
Of casement ledges where the moss has grown -

A poem should be wordless
As the flight of birds

A poem should be motionless in time
As the moon climbs

Leaving, as the moon releases
Twig by twig the night-entangled trees,

Leaving, as the moon behind the winter leaves,
Memory by memory the mind -

A poem should be motionless in time
As the moon climbs

A poem should be equal to:
Not true

For all the history of grief
An empty doorway and a maple leaf

For love
The leaning grasses and two lights above the sea -

A poem should not mean
But be

Joan said...

I found this...

"unlike prose, poetry allows a writer to ignore written conventions such as sentences and paragraphs, and is liberal with the use of punctuation..."

Rachel said...

OK, there is an episode of The Tudors - I think it's the end of season 2? - that I wish I could use in class to answer that very question. Unfortunately, it's a cable TV show and the scene I want to use is Anne Boleyn's beheading (and a few other people's), so it's a bit gruesome. The scene is of Thomas Wyatt writing a poem about the current, turbulent times and is read/voiced over the scenes of execution. It is so incredibly powerful in that it captures the guttural, raw emotions of poetry.

I think the difference between poetry and prose is that poetry is more instinctive. Prose is more civilized. Poetry is what our thoughts naturally tend to be (which is why freeverse and stream-of-consciousness can look eerily similar), and prose is the grammatical conventions we impart on language for efficiency. Poetry conveys meaning through shorter phrases, relying more heavily on imagery than prose. While figurative language may appear in prose, we use largely use it to add meaning but not, ultimately to be THE meaning.

I might ask students why people chose to write love poems and not love essays? Love poems are quicker, for one thing. And why are they quicker? You don't have to put the entire meaning into a complete sentence or even a paragraph. Poets can create meaning and emotion from a single image or cluster of words, imitating the instinctive, quick, nebulous pattern of thoughts and emotions.

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