Poetry Introduction

Poetry introduction.

A lot of our students have never read poetry or don’t realize they have read it.
Things to talk about:
What is poetry?
Where is poetry?
Who writes poetry?
History of poetry.
How do they write poetry?
How can you write poetry?
How to read poetry aloud.

What is poetry?
create a feeling
set a scene
may tell a story- used to tell a story, now more often a photograph/scene
may give a moral
may rhyme
a way of expressing something (thought/emotion)
“should be written at least as well as prose”

Ezra Pound
pay attention to the way it looks on the page

“use no superfluous word, no adjective, which does not reveal something”E. Pound

if you had to pay $1 for each word in your poem, how many would you have to keep?

Poetry is an experiment. The poet is trying to say something in a way you’ll KNOW it.

concrete- not abstract

“go in fear of abstractions” E Pound

original- new way of saying that gives you a new way of thinking about the thing
has a form- shape or structure the words take MATTERS; haiku, prayer, psalm, etc.

Where do we find poetry?

  • Jump rope rhymes
  • Mother Goose
  • America the Beautiful
  • hymns
  • songs
  • poems
  • playground
  • books
  • Reader’s Digest- Life in these United States (Robert Frost)
  • comic strips, cartoons
  • music
  • radio
  • paper: editorials, qtd Tree by Sgt. Joyce Kilmer
  • on the wall? “Foot prints in the Sand” wall hanging
  • fancy magazines like Sat. Evening Post, The Atlantic Monthly
  • children’s books
  • Bible
  • SF novels- John Ringo qts Kipling
  • Fantasy novels- Christopher Stasheff quotes lots of folks

Who likes poetry?
English teachers

Okay, but who else?

police officers
song writers
people who like music
religious people
in the Bible (New Testament), Paul, quoting a poet about the people
story tellers of all kinds

Who writes poetry?
people who care a lot

  • missionary
  • dr., nurse, soldier
  • fundraiser
  • spokesperson—like Michael J. Fox for Parkinson’s

people who like to play with words
people who read a lot
journals (genre specific mags for people in certain fields)
fiction, nonfiction
people who write a lot
curious folks
people who are willing to work hard to improve—

often requires a lot of revision

How do they write poetry?
different ways

  • Virgil (Roman poet) walked in gardens all day long.
  • Thought it was a good day if he got one new line.
  • Elizabethan poet Ben Jonson wrote a prose paragraph first.  Then wrote poem on topic.
  • John Milton was blind.  Composed Paradise Lost in his head and dictated it.
  • Frank O’Hara would eat lunch with friends. Go back to work.
  • Type one poem. Get back to working.
  • Maya Angelou writes on a bed.  She’s been doing it so long she has a callous on one elbow.

How can you write poetry? How do people do it?

Colonial America
Kept a commonplace book. Place to write ideas down.
Artist’s Way-says to write three poems a day
Keep a journal
Keep a book where you put in “interesting stuff”
Someone gave me one when I was 15. I loved it. Still cut articles, etc.
Practice writing traditional poems
“paying your dues”
Hemingway didn”t write grammatically correct sentences in his novels, but he knew the rules.

Keep a list of subjects to write about.
Ray Bradbury makes a list of nouns. Eventually many become stories.

Emily Dickinson was not as reclusive as she’s been portrayed.

Emily Dickinson was engaged at college. She had a lover later on, perhaps a judge? But no one wants to talk about it, argues Christopher Benfey, because we like our story better.

We tend to reserve special roles for our favorite writers—sepulchral Poe; sardonic Mark Twain; sexy, world-embracing Walt Whitman—and resist evidence that contradicts our cherished images. Emily Dickinson in this constellation is forever the lovelorn spinster, pining away in her father’s mansion on Main Street in Amherst, Mass. We assume that the grand passion behind her poems (“Wild nights—Wild nights! Were I with thee”) must have had a commensurate inspiration, whether imaginary, superhuman, or divine. Evidence that Dickinson’s love life was fairly ordinary, with ordinary temptations and disappointments, doesn’t quite fit the bill. Her exile on Main Street has seemed a necessary part of the Dickinson myth, so necessary, indeed, that contrary information—which happens to have been piling up lately—has often been discounted or ignored.

If there’s a surprise in all this, it’s an ordinary one. It turns out that Emily Dickinson had the kind of early romantic entanglement and disappointment that so many young people have. They find someone congenial; they exchange gifts and promises; their parents intervene for various acknowledged and unacknowledged reasons. If such ordinariness seems somehow beneath the dignity of one of our supreme poets, that’s probably why even this latest challenge to the image of isolated Emily has gotten so little attention. Alas, there’s nothing mysterious or mystical here except what Emily Dickinson made, in her extraordinary poems, of her all-too-human disappointment.

Read all the scintillating details at Slate.