I hate poetry.

February 28, 2008 at 7:23 pm 2 comments

Okay, hate is a strong word. I don’t hate all poetry.  I’ve just never been a huge fan. While I genuinely enjoy the work of Jim Carroll and Pablo Neruda (in the original Spanish; English translations leave a lot to be desired), as a general rule I despise rhyming poetry. And “I hate poetry” was a pretty common sentiment when I was in high school. That shouldn’t come as much of a surprise; while Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman, two of the poets we read in English class, are widely regarded as “great poets,” they’re not necessarily widely regarded by teenagers as “awesome.”

Thus, while I don’t personally care at all for Tupac Shakur’s poems, I definitely think The Rose That Grew from Concrete should be part of any good young adult collection.  It took me a long time to appreciate poetry, and I honestly think a big part of that is due to the kind of poetry I was required to read in school.  If young adults get the chance to read Shakur, or Jewel’s book of poetry, or even collected song lyrics, they might come up with a much wider definition of poetry than what’s found in their English anthologies.

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. annajcook  |  February 29, 2008 at 3:37 am

    Not that you asked for recommendations but . . .

    I’ve never been into poetry much myself, but as a teenager I absolutely fell in love with Naomi Shihab Nye, who writes amazing poetry and creative nonfiction. For a short taste, check out 19 Varieties of Gazelle. A taste from her poem “All Things Not Considered”:

    “Most of us would take our children over land.
    We would walk the fields forever homeless
    with our children,
    Huddle under cliffs, eat crumbs and berries,
    to keep our children.
    This is what we say from a distance
    because we can say whatever we want.”

    She’s also written the YA novel Habibi, which is about an Jewish American girl whose family immigrates to Israel, and her friendship with a Palestinian boy.

    I also really enjoy Carl Sandburg. There’s a lovely illustrated children’s book of some of his poems, which I bought for myself last year:

    “Little girl, be careful what you say
    when you make talk with words, words—
    for words are made of syllables
    and syllables, child, are made of air—
    and air is so thin—air is the breath of God—
    air is finer than fire or mist,
    finer than water or moonlight,
    finer than spider-webs in the moon,
    finer than water-flowers in the morning:
    and words are strong, too,
    stronger than rocks or steel
    stronger than potatoes, corn, fish, cattle,
    and soft, too, soft as little pigeon eggs,
    soft as the music of hummingbird wings.
    So, little girl, when you speak greetings,
    when you tell jokes, make wishes or prayers,
    be careful, be careless, be careful,
    be what you wish to be.”

    and neither of them write poetry the rhymes :).

    Reply
  • 2. Linda  |  March 3, 2008 at 9:33 am

    Exactly right about the wider appreciation for poetry coming from seeing the diversity of the form as presented by real-live writers of the time.

    I’m reminded however when reading this blog post how a teacher I had in high school tried to be cool by using current song lyrics to teach us about poetry. He couldn’t pull it off and just came off as an old person – he was probably 30 – trying to be cool.

    That makes me think about how we present this to teens without making them feel like we are trying to take over their world or making them feel like they lose some sort of ownership. In the library perhaps it’s simply about having the materials readily available and talking about them when asked. Also, maybe it’s by having poetry slams where teens get to read their own work as well as that from their favorite current artists.

    I’m pondering.

    Reply

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