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Killing Off Poetry

Somewhere between kindergarten and high school we lose all those potential poetry fans, and the answer to this seems simple. It happens because teachers stop writing, reading and performing poetry and begin to merely focus on dissecting and analysing it. They chop it into tiny pieces. So tiny are those pieces that one can no longer hear the rhythm and the rhyme. It concerns me greatly that in too many classrooms the teaching of poetry has been reduced to a clinical examination- The poem as autopsy. This dissecting of wondrous words is undertaken by teachers who lack a basic understanding of the poet’s simple desire to be shared.

The pleasure that previously took place with poetry performance evaporates. Disenchanted students are asked to search for hidden meanings and obscure symbolism. It takes little time before poetry becomes dull and tarnished. Those once eager young fans gradually drift away. The essential fact that we learn to write by actually writing is lost in the process.

Moira Robinson in her book "Making My Toenails Twinkle" provides sage advice on the sometimes deplorable things we do to poetry “If we are going to start defining poetry by the number of times spring daffodils are mentioned, or by measuring its degree of seriousness on some poetic Richter scale, we will finish up with nervous breakdowns.”

As a poet and an educator I am driven by a desire to have poetry viewed as consumer friendly by young people. I want them to enjoy the sheer magic of words the way I do. I want to share my love of language in the hope that they will come to know poetry as one does a friend. A friend to be valued and celebrated!

Said Hamlet to Ophelia
I'll write a poem for thee
Which pencil shall I use?
2B or not 2B ?

Spike Milligan


  1. I've just discovered your blog, courtesy of a Google alert. I love your achievable ideas for encouraging kids to write! This post resonated with me, because I sadly must agree. The poem as autopsy is correct. I think it also happens to literature, because love and joy and fun are not quantifiable, and have been ignored in many curricula.


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