By Megan Motley
Happy April! Happy National Poetry Month!
As an ELA teacher, I always felt obligated and hesitant to teach poetry. Where to begin? Iambic pentameter? Sonnets? Enjambment? Emily Dickinson wandering around in a white dress?! Ultimately, I found that sharing poetry that I liked and giving students space to find poems that they enjoyed in units throughout the year was enough. I didn’t need to provide hours of direct instruction to prepare them for poetry: students are smart, and they appreciate lyrics, rhythm, and lovely phrases. I also found that some students were already reading poetry on their own thanks to Instapoets like Rupi Kaur.
Not only did my classes appreciate reading poetry, I found that many students enjoyed writing poetry. Students loved creating “found poems” from a chapter of a novel that we were reading, and I loved that it was a sneaky and scaffolded way for all students to reread, examine language, and explore themes regardless of their reading level.
While there are only a few days left of National Poetry Month, it is worth prioritizing space in our own lives and our classrooms to simply read and appreciate poetry regardless of grade level or content. After all, as the poet Audre Lorde reminds us, “Poetry is not a luxury. It is a vital necessity for our existence. It forms the quality of light from which we predicate our hopes and dreams toward survival and change, first into language, then into idea, then into more tangible action.” Let’s continue to grow and refine our quality of light.
To celebrate spring’s return of songbirds and the last few days of National Poetry Month, here’s one that I keep coming back to by Mary Oliver.
What Gorgeous Thing
I do not know what gorgeous thing
the bluebird keeps saying,
his voice easing out of his throat,
beak, body into the pink air
of the early morning. I like it
whatever it is. Sometimes
it seems the only thing in the world
that is without dark thoughts.
Sometimes it seems the only thing
in the world that is without
questions that can’t and probably
never will be answered, the
only thing that is entirely content
with the pink, then clear white
morning and, gratefully, says so.
Curriculum & Instruction