Tag Archives: students

Poetry sucks! …decidedly so

26 Jul

Well, if that’s the case…

What happened to the apostrophe and s?

In the words of the tragic Hamlet: to be or not to be… or in the words of ill-spoken teenyboppers: it boring or it not boring…

That is the question.

Poetry comes in all shapes and sizes, topics, techniques – there is a massive, vast array of options. It is like someone saying they don’t like art. This type of person isn’t your average Thomas Kincade hater, they despise Picasso’s starry night, Dali’s weird-o alternate reality, children’s first scribbles, graffiti, napkin doodles, the lot.

Types of poetry (how many do you hate?):

Free verse
Nursery rhymes
Songs – yup! Even the latest from Beyonce.

I am certain that the students polled who ‘hate’ poetry cannot define more than three from the above list. But… If you have made it up in your mind, decided with resolve beforehand at some undetermined moment that you will not enjoy poetry, how will you ever know what fun you could be had?

A way back into poetry

HOT TEACHER TIP: One of my favorite poetry exercises is to have each student write some obscure one-liner on a piece of paper. All students pass the paper along the row. The next student writes another obscure one-liner that rhymes with the first line. Then they fold it over covering the two lines. Finally, they write one more line that does not rhyme. The paper is passed again and the action repeated. Eventually you get a full page of rhyming couplets that leave the students in stitches laughing at what silly and odd things they can come up with, if they just give their minds a chance to be free and be goofy.

I always tell my students that I love poetry because there is no wrong answer.

But if you hate poetry, Mary had a Little Lamb, napkin doodles, rhyming words, children and fun, then poetry is not for you. For this reason, poetry sucks.

 The score

 Poetry sucks: 2

 Poetry rules: 4


Poetry sucks! …if you don’t give it time

6 Jun

It’s just too hard to understand… Sigh.

The score is two in favor of poetry and naught… not for poetry. It is time to pose the against argument. This is easy when it comes to teens (and many adults too). I am sure if I took a poll in the street, the majority would say poetry sucks. I know this. I admit that I am a minority and I am okay with this.

Why? Oh why, do you suck, thou poems?

Robert Fitzgerald said, “Poetry is at least an elegance and at most a revelation.” This suggests that to really understand poetry you need to have an appreciation of the elegance of writing. Do you take the time to admire things? I mean really to look at stuff in the world – the nearest tree, the glistening paths snails made during the night, the dragons in the clouds? Do you look for these things?

Poetry isn’t like going to the cinema for a chick flick. Without training the mind to admire, to look at the world with a sense of awe and appreciation, then you do not have an eye for poetry. It does not come naturally. In our culture of the constant and bombarding visual onslaught of information, dazzling lights, advertisements, flashy flash, we are accustomed to glancing – not looking, not seeing, not understanding on the deeper level. We don’t process what we see. This is simply too hard to do.

I am guilty.

I heart youtube and films and since I don’t get TV channels on my television (I know, it’s weird but it adds to my point) when I do enter a room and there is a TV on, I am mesmerized. No joke. I am like a moth to the light. I understand the poetry glaze because I understand that we have evolved to become lazy eyed in a figurative sense. We let information attack us and we do not engage.

Recently I watched a series on the Amish. One young Amish woman visited a shopping mall and she said that it made her feel ill because every store, every sign, every kiosk was aimed at throwing persuasive allure at her. She was overcome with the information and we are in the age where every business is savvy to lure you in. We don’t stop and think, we are coaxed in by the pretty and the cheap.

That is what much of the costly is: cheap. That is how businesses, top selling tat make moo-lah.

Poetry, on the other hand, is the finery, thought over, reflected upon art of the written word. It takes time and brain power to understand and appreciate. It is a hard thing to do.

For this reason, poetry sucks because it is hard for us to understand it unless we choose to use our minds to see.

What is your opinion of poetry? Be sure to click follow!

So the score this week is one for poetry sucks!

 The score

 Poetry sucks: 1

 Poetry doesn’t suck: 2

Poetry sucks! …but you learn about people’s lives

27 May


There should really be an apostrophe in there.

This term I have been teaching poetry to some not very enthused 12-13 year olds and I’ve been polling their honest opinions about my second favourite topic to teach: poetry! What is my first you ask? Creative writing definitely and sometimes it is Shakespeare (check out the poem I wrote on The Tempest). So here is the second instalment of my new series on why poetry sucks and/or doesn’t suck.

So, does poetry suck? One student wrote that you learn about people’s lives! Ah-ha!

Whose lives? And why is this even important?! Inquiring minds want to know.

My students have been learning about conflict poetry from WWI so they know about Robert Graves who desperately missed his loved ones from the trenches, Alan Seeger, Wilfred Owen, Vera Brittain,  Charles Sorely, John McCrae and Rupert Brooke  – wait! I see that unlearned glazed look. Hold your hovering finger right there and do NOT click the back button. Go to scroll. Keep reading. Good.

Did you know that Alan Seeger was a US citizen who was killed on the fourth day of the Battle of the Somme, 4 July 1916, at the age of 28? This was one of the most famously bloody battles?  Did you know that 20% of the entire British fighting force had been killed on the FIRST day?

Did you know Wilfred Owen spent a few extremely long and lonely days in the remains of corpses in a German dugout after being blown away from his fellow soldiers? This gives the reader their window – or rampart – to view from, to undertand the immense tragedy when he went back to the front line for a second time (against his friend, Sassoon’s wishes) to be killed one week before the signing of the Armistice. My heart sinks. He had written to his mother: ” I have not been at the front. – I have been in front of it.”

Did you know Vera Brittain lost her fiance, brother, close friend, and second fiance to WWI? Also, one of her friends became blind as a result of the war and this gives context and meaning to her moving poem “Perhaps” on the grief she endured for the rest of her life.  We understand people and we can then understand their art, their writing, and see and feel their emotions through our perception of it.

Then, we might learn about ourselves. But I can’t tell them that, can I?

See how the poetry sucks/does not argument pans out next week! Be sure to click follow!

Please comment: Who is your favourite poet?

So the score this week is one in favour of poetry!

 The score

 Poetry sucks: 0

 Poetry doesn’t suck: 2

Poetry sucks! …but you learn history

12 May

So since my last published poem received minimal views (yes, I did cry inside a little but I got over it) I decided I needed a new approach to lure you to my blog.

Really, I am so excited when I get views, it makes my day.

Now, as you know I am a high school teacher in England (which encompasses teaching 11-19 year olds or 6th graders to seniors). At the moment I am teaching poetry to 12-13 year olds who I polled this week on opinions about poetry and I found some interesting things I’ll be exploring in a series on why poetry sucks and/or doesn’t suck.

So, does poetry suck? One student wrote that it is about history. When I pulled this out the box of anonymous comment I smiled.

I actually loved reading this one. We are learning about conflict poetry this term, and in particular, WWI. We tried on soldier’s gear, we are learning about the soldiers who wrote poetry, and we are spending time imagining peeking over the ramparts into No Man’s Land. There is tons of history here worth exploring, to step into someone else’s shoes and imagine. Next week we are learning about the three main types of gasses used during the Great War. In conflict poetry’s defence, this is an important part of our heritage that we cannot bear to forget.

To put it simply, I think it’s useful; that’s why I am teaching it. Whether or not my students see the light, they can now name the main types of mortars used, know how heavy a soldier’s bag was and can describe the beauty of England that was worth missing to so many poets. I have tried my darndest (I think that’s a word) to send them back in time in my own Magical School Bus way to understand what life was like back then in times of war.

But not all of them see that we are learning history as well – many of them said (in my best Lou and Andy voice): “It’s borrrrring.” I’ll be exploring some of these comments in the upcoming weeks. Be sure to click follow!

So the score this week is one in favour of poetry! What’s your opinion? What value do you see in learning poetry?

 The score

 Poetry sucks: 0

 Poetry doesn’t suck: 1