Tag Archive for Billy Collins

Poetry: Week in Review

           Friday Dialogue from                

                                      Your Two Favorite Educators 

As Emily and Aubrey look back over the week they use their razor sharp wit to discuss the merits of poetry in the English classroom.  

1.  What are the largest obstacles to teaching poetry?  

Emily:  I think students are inherently afraid of poetry because they are afraid the poet is playing tricks on them.  While they might understand each individual What does Emily say?word in a poem, there is something about the compact form and typically rigid structure that makes students doubt whether or not they know what the words mean.  They begin to think that every word is a symbol and get frustrated and just quit.  The largest obstacle is helping students navigate through a tough poem with confidence.

Aubrey: I feel as if students split down the middle, it’s either fear or the definitive belief that “short” texts are synonymous with ease.  It’s very difficult for me to guide both groups to a middle ground.  Parsing poetry should be difficult but not every word is a symbol.  

2.  What merit is there to teaching poetry?  

Emily:  I love how tight and specific it is.  Poems are like taking a novel and cutting it down to the bare bones.  What a novelist can posit in 200 pages a poet can do in 14 lines.  I think this is the biggest benefit.  Students can hone similar skills they would with the book they never pick up because it is too long.

Aubrey:
What I wouldn’t give for some concision in student writing.  I’d also like poetry to prove to them that a small turn of phrase can pack an incredibly large wallop.  So many of my students are hung up on the idea of more, more, more.  Poetry teaches patience and the value of writing in “small spaces.” Read more

Poetry: Spoken Word

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All of my best “material” has an element of shamelessness to it.  I’m not talking about the curriculum I’ve created or the copious notes I’ve constructed.  I’m not talking about how I tap my face while I grade  or helicopter over students until they annotate.  No, I am talking about how I “clown” literature.  I pantomime and quip.  I physically reenact Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway, Edgar Allan Poe, even Robert Penn Warren.

I am an embarrassment unto myself. Read more

Poetry: Billy Collins & Media Literacy

Billy Collins is my favorite poet.  This is neither unique or of great, vast insight.  To deny Billy Collins is to deny the art of poetry, poet laureates and Poetry 180.  But part of what truly makes me love Billy Collins is his role in shaping popular culture when it comes to poetry.  Since this week’s posts examine poetry through the lens of media, Billy Collins is a worthy focus.  More than anything else he is a poet in the public eye.

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Collins is well-known.  See his You Tube highlights or any of his featured spots on A Prairie Home Companion if you don’t believe it.  But what makes him an appropriate topic for our focus this week on poetry and media literacy has to do with how we see his poetry “interpreted.”

Consider using the lesson below to supplement a poetry unit that already focuses on Billy Collins.  Or, use one of his pieces of poetry as a starting point, and after introducing his work, use this lesson to raise larger questions about poet, media and culture. Read more