Writing,Teaching, and Parenting Poetry

My friend Sara writes with such poetry in her voice. She wrote a post recently "Glory of Spring" (at A Place to Write ) and I began to think about poetry, finding a voice, and the way we teach our children about poetry.

Back in second grade I was grilled by my teacher for producing an actual original poem from my heart, while another girl received endless stars on the board (second grade accolades) for her infinite list of Green things (back when green was just a color) Green is a frog, Green is a leaf, Green is the mold on my brother’s socks.- OK you got me I made that part up about the socks, I may still be a tad bitter, but you get the idea.

I remember listening to the teacher read Shel Silverstien poems, but I don’t remember any other poetry from back then- over 30 years ago, yeesh! For some reason I don’t recall any poetry in middle or high school. I take that back, I did have to read Shakespeare, but that to me is just not the same. Perhaps it was offered as a class I didn’t elect to take, or I just wasn't ready to absorb it yet. So, in college I took a poetry class, not for writing, but the kind where you find out all you’ve been missing out on. There I found I love and enjoy the poetry of Mary Oliver, William Stafford, and Robert Francis (a scarcely known peer of Robert Frost, who also lived and wrote poetry in Amherst, MA) 

Just a few years later, while studying Curriculum and Instruction with a focus on Integrating the Arts in Ed. I took a poetry course. The course was to encourage our own personal exploration of the art of writing poetry, reading poetry, and teaching our kids not only about but also through poetry. It was the first time I had written any poetry since second grade! I was totally game though, my twenty something self was ready to find her voice again.
In my classroom I tried to provide opportunities to enjoy poetry throughout the year, (not just during “Poetry Month”. And I tried to provide some opportunities for writing that were more authentic than, “Go to your desk and write a poem now.” We read poems, listened to music, and took looking and listening walks. We noticed the world around us, even wrote some poems as a class. The most important thing to know about teaching poetry to kids, I realized back then, is You Don’t Have to Teach Them. They get it. It is in their blood till someone comes along and scares, or shames it out of them.

Every poet in my class had a turn to read something they wrote or have it read by someone of their choice. Those 6 and 7 year olds took this really seriously! We even had a special poetry lamp to set the mood. The children in my first grade were poets, each and every one.

Home with my kids, I have learned teaching as a stealth act. Simply noticing aloud about the orange blaze the sun cast on the forest behind our home at day’s end, or the tiniest pinecones-um hemlock cones actually-that scatter in the hideout alongside our yard, I try to teach them about poetry. So it doesn’t surprise me at all when my kids teachers tell me how they are “So good at poetry” in a way that says they don’t think I know it. I just nod and I think to myself “yeah, isn’t it great.” And when we took out paints and brushes, set up outdoors and got to work creating, it didn’t surprise me at all when below a brilliant blue sky, shining with golden, yellow, and orange sunlight. My son (7) wrote: The golden sun, oh the golden sun, bright and wonderful.


Anonymous said...

What a nice blog entry, Amy! ;) Clare (your sister in-law)

MGW said...


Amy said...

Thank You! And so glad you took time to respond :)