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I'm a small-town poet in both written word and performance. I'm more influenced by rock and roll but I am also a lit-chick full of curiosity. My influences are far and wide and I can find writing inspiration in anything, from important matters to pure whimsy.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

School's Here Again, Literature and Education

My Children's Lit. course has started. The actual literature focus on this unit is poetry, rhyme and verse. I spent much of last evening reading old nursery rhymes and nonsense verse. It was a pleasant trip down memory lane as well as a discovery as I read rhymes, street games and folk songs from other countries.

I've also enjoyed how my textbooks are encouraging an interest through enjoyment. I feel that is the key to keeping people interested in poetry. All too much, especially later in childhood, we get all caught up in the structures and "deeper meanings" of poems and not the pleasure one can find from reading or hearing these poems. Poetic devices are fine and dandy, but they aren't strictly what makes a poem. To interpret meaning should be left to the individual and not an instructed meaning.

It brings me to a memory of "learning" about poetry in tenth grade. Aside from the stories, I don't remember much from tenth grade literature/english. I read some interesting stories, and some literary canon, but the actual teaching I feel kind of sucked joy from literature. Specifically I'm thinking of a poem about a butterfly on a rock. I forgot the title and author, even though it may be classic. The class was told it is to be interpreted as a message on overcoming life's obstacles because the butterfly is on a rock and not a flower. Like that could strictly be the only meaning to the poem. Fortunately my love for reading overrode my frustration with that particular class.

It also illustrates one of the problems with keeping people interested in poetry as an art. We love it as children and find it pleasant. Then along comes the need to analyze and be uptight on the education of poetry. It is not just an art to be appreciated and explored, but something to be dissected and pored over until it twists your brain into knots. That is also the flaw in teaching interpretation and critical thinking, it's enforced rather than encouraged. Kids get forced to poke and prod a piece and take it to levels that might not be appreciated yet.

Maybe we need to change our approach a little when teaching literature to students. Teach an appreciation for an art rather than a formula. Fortunately I see more and more of a relaxed approach being taken. Seeing things like high school writers' retreats where students meet and work with professional performance poets. It becomes a place where students learn of the art form outside the classroom, and are introduced to works that can be easily related to or touch on a subject that's close to a person. This is an art form for everybody, not just the small child, the "disaffected emo kid" or the literary scholar. It's for anyone who has a love for expression.

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