Welcome from Amy D. Unsworth

Language, Literature, Learning & Life.

Define "Essential"

I'm working to finish up my plan for my non-majors Intro to Lit. for the fall semester. When it comes right down to it, I have about 10 days to teach poetry without skimping on other genres which too must be taught. Ten days. If I can teach 3 poems a day, that's 30 poems with less than 20 minutes to talk about any given poem. If I teach 50 poems, that's 10 minutes a poem. I have an anthology selected, so I'm trying to pick a wide range from what is in the book.

It boils down to 400+ years of poetry in 10 days or less than one poem per decade. I can name at least 40 poems from the last 40 years that must be read. How do you decide on poems that will make students become readers? How can I make them fall in love with words?

The poetry reading was quite lovely. We all crowded into the coffeeshop and drank lemonaide and chatted with conference attendees from all over the world and those from a bit closer to home. It was lovely to hear the poets' voices, the inflection they choose as they read their own work. We read in alphabetical order, which meant I was last, and was responsible for saying goodnight. When the poet before me stood up to read, my hands began to shake. I brought my youngest son out of necessity. I heard his every shuffle, wiggle, sneeze, whisper. Before I read, he asked if we were almost done. Yes, yes, after I go. I read my poems, I looked over my own shoulder and questioned if I was reading loud enough, if I was reading slowly enough, if I was making eye-contact. When I finished, the crowd clapped as they do, and my son cheered loudly. You Rock Mom! I think he cheered because we were finished and I'd promised him a cheeseburger on the way home. I couldn't stop smiling.


steve mueske said...

That's hard to say without knowing what the requirements are for the class. Were it me and there were no rules, I'd find the wildest stuff out there. If it's a survey, then that's another matter altogether. You definitely have to include something from Elliot so that you can frame the post-modern shift toward free verse. It would be cool to focus on the early imagists, too, particularly HD, as I personally feel that they were way ahead of their time.

Perhaps one of your lessons might require students to find five poems that move them.

steve mueske said...

I've come back to this because I think it is an interesting question. Are you going to cover the tools of metrical poetry? I think even a rudimentary knowledge of the types of feet, what metaphor is, etc. are. I guess you're in a rather unenviable position of having to summarize large-scale shifts, and that almost always boils down to the emergence of one school over another.

But please, please, please teach HD's Trilogy. I think it's one of the best poetry books ever written.

Amy Unsworth said...

Hi Steve,

I've put the class together, it's the broadest "introduction to literature" so my time is very limited. I was hoping to read several poems to them today to show them the variety in voice and we didn't get to but one. *sigh*

What's worse, I've read various HD poems in anthologies and _Bid Me Live_ by HD but never the work you're suggesting. I loved _Bid Me Live_ so I need to get the book you're recommending as well.

One's education never ends! :)


Amy Unsworth said...

And yes to your question, I'll be covering formal poetry conventions and lots of figurative language terms. And how to "hear" not "just" read a poem.