A Poem a Day
Writing, at its best, doesn't just transmit information, but emotion and sensation. Poems are tightly-wrapped packets of meaning and experience. Poetry is, as Khalil Gibran said, "a deal of joy and pain and wonder, with a dash of the dictionary."
Sometimes we (poets and poetry-phobes alike) treat poetry as pretentious blathering, but a good poem can feed us. It can amuse and challenge us. Sometimes, a poem can sustain us.
But poetry plays little part in the K–12 curriculum, and when it does, it's usually there to be dissected and explained.
Schools have turned spiritual sustenance into dead frogs.
Our basic plan:
Fill the school with great poems that are easy to enjoy and understand — only give them more difficult poems once they've fallen in love with poetry.
Pick a poem to read aloud each day.
Read it to the kids once, twice, and maybe thrice. (Perhaps project it onto the wall in the latter readings.)
Afterwards, entrust it to a central, easy-to-access collection for kids to peruse and do things with in their Independent Work time.
Adults who love well-crafted language.
Adults who are more resilient because they can depend on poems to help sustain them.
If you walk into a classroom, you might see:
Five-year-olds giggling at Shel Silverstein. Seven-year-olds smirking at Jack Prelutsky. Nine-year-olds flummoxing at Ogden Nash. Eleven-year-olds grinning at Bill Watterson. Thirteen-year-olds creeping out at Edgar Allen Poe. Fifteen-year-olds savoring Robert Frost and Emily Dickinson. Seventeen-year-olds wondering at Alan Ginsberg.
Should we do this for a full four days each week? Or should we alternate poems-a-day with some other pattern — perhaps "Song a Day"?
We have a method for picking songs — what should be our method for picking poems?
(This idea is currently in beta! If you've thoughts on how to make it better, please shoot an e-mail to Brandon at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
To Learn More:
This pattern was inspired by Poetry 180: A Turning Back to Poetry by Billy Collins — an anthology of 180 poems appropriate for school classrooms. (We're, of course, expanding the idea a bit further — more on the order of 1,800 poems!)