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reading poetry aloud
Posted by: Talia (192.168.128.---)
Date: September 27, 2005 10:25AM

I have to do 5 hours of field experience for my "Intro to Teaching" class. (I am studying to be an English teacher). So, I have hooked up with my former high school teacher and he wants me to do some sort of "lesson" for his creative writing class. I thought, rather than discussing revision or how to get ideas, etc. I would do what I know Mr. Hernandez will not cover and that is reading poetry. We had to do quite a lot of this in my college Poetry Writing class and I think it made quite an improvement on my poetry writing (as well as reading).

So I plan to play some cd's of various poets reciting their work, one of me reciting some poetry set to music (former assignment I had to do) and discuss techiniques, etc. of how one read's poetry. As an assignment I was thinking of having them choose a poem, and read before the class.

Any ideas, pointers, etc. that I should include?
Should I make them choose a published poem or have them read one of their own? It is only the beginning of te school year so they may not have poems yet, and they are only high school students and may not be comfortable readig their own yet.

Any help would be appreciated as I am quite intimidated.

Re: reading poetry aloud
Posted by: Desi (Moderator)
Date: September 27, 2005 10:50AM

quite a challenge! Very brave of you.

first of all, I would include a poem of at least 6, 8 or whatever lines. They are students and may come up with very nice limericks or haikus. Which is fine, of course, but doesn't really make them think about reading a poem.

I would have them read published work or their own work, whatever they prefer and are most comfortable with. Or you can say, choose a published poem, or write an imitation of a published poem and read that. (which may give them insight in how a poem works).

Good luck! And let us know how it goes.

Re: reading poetry aloud
Posted by: lg (Moderator)
Date: September 27, 2005 12:41PM

Talia, you definitely should provide them with source material since most of them will not have poetry resources, unless it is a very exceptional class. Here are some suggestions from our readers:

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Re: reading poetry aloud
Posted by: JohnnySansCulo (192.168.128.---)
Date: September 27, 2005 12:52PM

Feel free to have them read any of mine !

I wanna be like So-crates and corrupt the youth !

Re: reading poetry aloud
Posted by: lg (Moderator)
Date: September 27, 2005 01:00PM

I wanna be like So-crates and corrupt the youth !

You're too late Johnny, judging by MTV et al, they're already there.


Re: reading poetry aloud
Posted by: JohnnySansCulo (192.168.128.---)
Date: September 27, 2005 02:42PM dreams are press this here key on the keyboard called "Numlock"

Re: reading poetry aloud
Posted by: joet (192.168.128.---)
Date: September 27, 2005 06:09PM


Don't underestimate the depth of creativity in your students. I teach Grades 6-8 and have been amazed at the poetry these youngsters compose. If your school system is any good, I'd wager that its high-schoolers have written a number of poems and that they won't hesitate to share some of them.


Re: reading poetry aloud
Posted by: vic jefferies (192.168.128.---)
Date: September 28, 2005 02:58AM

Whatever you choose be sure that it is interesting, appealing and entertaining.
So many young people are dissuaded from becoming interested in poetry by being forced to study/learn poetry that does not appeal to them or poetry that they do not undertstand.
I firmly believe that if the young were first taught more rip roaring entertaining ballads such as those written by AB Paterson, Robert W Service etcetera, we would have more people move on to an appreciation of the more serious poems and poetry.
What can be worse than being forced to read, study or listen to something that neither interests you, appeals to you nor do you understand?
It is something like expecting the young to appreciate the genius of Mozart when they really want to listen to rock 'n roll. However, perhaps if you play rock 'n roll and then explain how it is constructed and composed perhaps you will kindle an interest in music!!!

Re: reading poetry aloud
Posted by: Talia (192.168.128.---)
Date: September 30, 2005 11:35AM

Brave of me? I'm just hoping I come out alive.

Thank you all for the advice. I will let you know how it turns out.

Re: reading poetry aloud
Posted by: IanB (192.168.128.---)
Date: September 30, 2005 12:51PM

You'll probably have students who are completely inexperienced at reading poetry aloud, and are either shy or embarrassed or very nervous. I'd begin with poems that are short and easy to read, and with a bit of humour or excitement that the rest of the class can relate to. Poems that use regular meter rather than 'beats' may be easier for the inexperienced. Some topics, like love, may be better avoided as likely to cause too much self-consciousness, depending on the age group. Just to show however that some rules can sometimes be broken, here's a little free-verse one from young Australian poet Adam Ford that might go down well:


My dog's got a new trick that's
very helpful to my love life.
I describe the perfect woman
and then say
in a loud, firm voice,


Now, sometimes it takes him
a few days
to get back to me,
but he always does get back to me.
And when he gets back to me,
she's there with him.
All covered in spit like a tennis ball.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 11/30/2005 08:04AM by IanB.

Re: reading poetry aloud
Posted by: IanB (192.168.128.---)
Date: September 30, 2005 08:05PM

And this one by Patricia Beer is a good 'blood and guts' one with a regular meter:


I told them not to ring the bells
The night the Vikings came
Out of the sea and passed us by.
The fog was thick as cream
And in the abbey we stood still
As if our breath might blare
Or pulses rattle if we once
Stopped staring at the door.

Through the walls and through the fog
We heard them passing by.
The deafer monks thanked God too soon
And later only I
Could catch the sound of prowling men
Still present in the hills
So everybody else agreed
To ring the abbey bells.

And even while the final clang
Still snored upon the air,
And while the ringers joked their way
Down round the spiral stair,
Before the spit of fervent prayer
Had dried into the stone
The raiders came back through the fog
And killed us one by one.

Father Abbot at the altar
Lay back with his knees
Doubled under him, caught napping
In the act of praise.
Brother John lay unresponsive
In the warming room.
The spiders came out for the heat
And then the rats for him.

Under the level of the sheep
Who graze here all the time
We lie now, under tourists' feet
Who in good weather come.
I told them not to ring the bells,
But centuries of rain
And blustering have made their tombs
Look just as right as mine.

Re: reading poetry aloud
Posted by: IanB (192.168.128.---)
Date: September 30, 2005 11:07PM

And if you want something longer, still easy to read aloud, with some great images, here's one written more than 50 years ago by the New Zealand-born/Australian-adopted poet and poetry editor Douglas Stewart:


Heaven is a busy place.
Those in a state of grace
Continually twanging the harp.
And Court at eight-thirty sharp.
Did he do ill or well,
Shall he be sent to hell
That scoundrel in the dock?
The great black Judgment Book
Says nothing good of him;
Weeping of seraphim.

Twanging the harp and mourning.
Three more, a score for burning,
And always, if not the best,
Those of most interest.
And then the deputations –
Bishops for their congregations,
Relations and friends of cherubs,
Mahomet and all those Arabs…
Arrival with knocking knees
Of sixty thousand Chinese.

Incessant tinkle of strings
And rain for Alice Springs
Now seven years in arrears.
Such multifarious cares,
Sparrows to be watched as they fall,
Elephants, ants and all
To the egg of the frog in the slime.
Then wind up the clock of time,
Douse the red sun in the deep,
Put the cat on the moon, and sleep.

Sir, I would make my petition:
Love and fulfilled ambition;
Some friends to be partly protected,
Some enemies grossly afflicted,
And, if I rise no higher,
A place at least by the fire.
But earth is a busy planet
And failing the timely minute,
I found it best to postpone,
Do as well as I could on my own.

Now I have found a place
Where in their twisted grace
Soft-footed mangroves glide,
Fishing the green of the tide
With net and club and spear:
And all is so silent here
Lying by the gum-tree’s root
I listen to a beetle’s foot
Loud as a midnight thief
Crash on a fallen leaf.

If in the heavenly clime
They share such gaps in time,
Here if ever is the place
And the chance to state one’s case.
But I must return a favour:
Life has a lovely flavour
And now there is time to waste
Now there is time to taste
(I think I shall not intrude)
Heaven is finding it good.

Re: reading poetry aloud
Posted by: Doug G (192.168.128.---)
Date: October 18, 2005 08:43AM

I've seen this book fairly often here in Canada, but I suspect it's widely available: "Poetry Speaks: Hear Great Poets Read Their Work from Tennyson to Plath" (Harcover book and 3 Audio CDs) by Elise Paschen and Rebekah Presson Mosby (Editors). I have not bought the book myself, but it's on my wish list, and may suit your need.

Dare I suggest Leonard Cohen? I mean, he was known as a poet first (smile). It would be interesting to compare the works as poems versus songs -- especially since a number of other singers have also done covers of the same pieces.

You might also consider the recent anthology "Good Poems," collected by Garrison Keillor (Editor). These were selected by him from a vast number of poems he's read on his PBS radio The Writer's Almanac. A nice collection I have on my shelf.

On the topic of recent anthologies that might apeal to the high school set: "Staying Alive: Real Poems for Unreal Times" (Neil Astley, ed.) is also good. Also on my shelf, and a pick I'm happy with. Or unhappy with, depending on the poem.... some dark themes in the collection.

Let us know what you end up doing...


Re: reading poetry aloud
Posted by: Talia (192.168.128.---)
Date: November 19, 2005 10:08PM

Well, I've done it. I was a nervouse wreck but they were quite relieved to see me as I caused their dramas to be due one day later giving some of them a sigh of relief. I played several poems and they very much enjoyed my reading of Lady Lazarus by Sylvia Plath that was set to music. It seems they are planning to do a similar project in conjuntion with their literary magazine (for a small high school they come out with an amazing award-winning one every year). The following week I came back and several of them had not been prepared and chosen a poem. I think a few of them were simply too shy. But a few did read their own poems and I was amazed at how much my opinion mattered to them as one boy in particular lit up with delight when I told him how much I loved his poem. That made it worth it all.

This class is designed to weed out the college students who decide after their field experience that teaching really isn't for them, and to my suprise a few in my class actually decided they did not want to teach after all. For me, I am a Junior and taking this class a little late, but luckily I still want to do.

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