Tags:
  1. Heydonz

    Heydonz Member

    Joined:
    Apr 21, 2020
    Messages:
    24
    Likes Received:
    17

    What are good poems to get kids interested in poetry?

    Discussion in 'Poetry' started by Heydonz, Jul 25, 2020.

    Next week I am starting teaching a poetry class - to kids at GCSE level (ranging from ages 13-15).
    I expect many of the kids have a negative or apathetic attitude towards poetry especially because none of them speak English as a first language - although there English is now fluent(ish).

    So I was wondering which poems would people recommend I show them to help inspire an interest? These poems can be complex but have to be reasonably accessible. Also ideally poems which have plenty to analyze.

    Additionally, if anyone has any advice about how to teach poetry - it would also be much appreciated. Currently I am planning to explain poetic techniques and run through poems with them exploring the poems together.

    Thanks
     
    Cdn Writer likes this.
  2. EFMingo

    EFMingo A Nefarious Flamingo Staff Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 10, 2014
    Messages:
    2,276
    Likes Received:
    3,668
    Location:
    San Diego, California
    Usually Gothic poems are pretty accessible because of the interest they generate. I'm talking about poems by Poe and the like.

    My list of poems for accessibility and short length to not drive them away would be:

    1). "Those Winter Sundays" Robert Hayden
    2). "The Fish" Elizabeth Bishop
    3). "Nighttime Fires" Regina Barreca (narrative poetry)
    4). "The Raven" E. A. Poe
    5). "The Death of a Ball Turret Gunner" Randall Jarrell
    6). "Root Cellar" Theodore Roethke (study in imagery creating tone)
    7). "Dulce Et Decorum Est" Wilfred Owen
    8). "What It's Like to be a Black Girl (For Those of You Who Aren't)" Patricia Smith
    9). "Shooting the Horse" David Shumate (Intorductory lesson to prose poetry)
    10). "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" Samuel Coleridge (Introduction to longer form poetry)

    Maybe that list is a good start. There are many ways in. Need to know the demographics of the students to home in though.
     
    Cdn Writer, J.T. Woody and Heydonz like this.
  3. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 7, 2016
    Messages:
    4,154
    Likes Received:
    3,556
    For this age range, I would have to say "One Art" if I was choosing an Elizabeth Bishop poem. @EFMingo -- Why did you you choose "The Fish?" Just wondering because I'm an fan of her work all around. I'm going to go read it again now. Both of them. Bishop is a master of so many complex forms yet her work is very accessible and moving, honest at the same time.
     
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2020
    Cdn Writer and Heydonz like this.
  4. Mckk

    Mckk Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2010
    Messages:
    6,366
    Likes Received:
    4,352
    Search for My Tongue is a GCSE poem for native kids in the UK - it's written by a woman about her mother tongue, I think Hindi, being pushed to wither and rot in her mouth as she embraced English, only to spurt and flourish again. Even as a 15 year old, I didn't have the ability to really realise why this poem stood out to me. I emigrated to the UK when I was 8, from Hong Kong. My mother tongue is technically Cantonese, and now English has replaced it as my "mother tongue". To give an idea of my level of fluency in the two languages: I'm writing novels in English. I can't dream of doing that in Chinese. So there you go. Another poem we studied back then was called Half-Caste. It's not a PC term anymore, of course, but I still often think of the poem. It's made me sensitive to the term "half". My own daughter, now, is of course, half-Chinese, half Czech - but really culturally I'm almost entirely English - so does that make her English? I really don't know. It's obvious why these poems still interest me now.

    Here's a bio I've prepared when time comes to query for my next novel, which will be an own voices urban fantasy crime novel:

    I am an art teacher in training and a mother with a love for origami. I was born in Hong Kong, raised in England, and now call the Czech Republic my home. I could write reams on my cultural identity, but to keep it short: I am English, not by blood; I am a Hong Konger, not Chinese; I am a banana and a rising bamboo; and for the Czechs, apparently I am from London and definitely Chinese. I always introduce myself with my middle name included because it isn't my middle name at all, but my birth name, relegated to memory and special mentions. Imagine, if this was short, how long the long version must be.
    It's a little long as far as bios for queries go, but I think I'll keep it anyway. If you're dealing with kids whose first language is not English, chances are these will be themes that will interest them. I also remember dealing with a 9-year-old child who was telling me how his dad doesn't think he's Czech enough (he's Czech-Welsh). I asked him if he's heard of the term "culture clash" - he hadn't. These are all themes children like him will actually be very familiar with, but who do not yet have the capabilities or the language to properly analyse them or the emotions associated with them.

    So, maybe try those poems.

    I was personally engaged in poetry for the first time when I was 9 and still learning English. I'd never heard of Humpty Dumpty, which shocked my teacher, and who promptly introduced me to it. Something as simple as this could be potentially interesting - the idea of a living, walking egg going splat? It's a unique idea that may not have occurred to kids who are not English and therefore not raised with this concept. It baffled and fascinated me as a young girl from Hong Kong. There are many retellings of this that you could probably use I'll bet.

    Otherwise, what about the Jabberwocky? What makes poetry, poetry? Does it always have to make sense? When does rhythm and rhyme trump meaning? Is it meaningful when it essentially lacks meaning? Alice in Wonderland might be a fun supplement for this - I'm sure there's gotta be poems on Alice in Wonderland.

    Finally, when I left my school to another one at the age of 9, the same teacher who introduced me to Humpty Dumpty gave me a parting gift: Children's Book of Verse. I've attached a picture of its cover - it comes with gorgeous watercolour illustrations and it has classics like I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud as well as silly ones like Mr Nobody, The Owl and the Pussy Cat, Tiger Tiger Burning Bright. I had only been in England for roughly a year and a half at that point and I could read about 80-90% of the entire book back then. Some of the language can get a little old, but there's a wide range. If I managed it at the time, I think your fluent pupils at age 13+ should manage. I read and reread this book as a kid and it has travelled with me everywhere. It is still with me now on my shelf.

    I don't exactly write poetry, nor have I taught it before, but I loved rhymes. Again, I'd come from a Chinese system where creativity just wasn't a thing they taught or encouraged. It was allowed in certain subjects, but it wasn't exactly "taught". I'd recited Chinese poems before without ever knowing it was even a poem, or that things rhymed. As soon as my learning support teacher pointed them out in English, I was riveted. I wanted everything to rhyme. I would write "poems" in the margins of my books in English long before I was remotely fluent. Of course, considering I'm seeking publication now (novels, not poetry), I might be an exception with how fascinated I became. But what enraptured me was imagery. When later in secondary school we started learning about metaphors, personifications etc, I was just blown away. It probably doesn't come as a surprise I'm training to be an art teacher - I'm highly visual. And I loved how words were another medium to creating an image - painting with words. I loved it all.

    Incidentally, I also rather like music - on a popular level, not professional as I am with art and writing - but for that reason I loved rhythm. Ask your students to read things out loud and clap in time to the beat - where does the beat land? Does it make any difference to the feeling of the piece?

    You could either provide lines of snipped-up text (partial sentences, words etc) or ask your pupils to cut out lines that interest them (full lines or part of a line, or even as single word) - now arrange it into a new poem of their own. Then move around: read other people's poems, talk about word choices, now re-arrange someone else's chosen words. Have the original author come back and read what's happened to their poem - comment upon it, according to what you're focusing on, theme, rhythm, meaning etc.

    As your pupils are not native speakers, I think providing them with a word bank would be beneficial, so they're not struggling for words. Certain translanguaging techniques might be fun here - permit, within reason, some usage of their mother tongue. Does it change anything when they decide to insert a single word of their mother tongue into an otherwise English poem? How can you provide context in the rest of the poem to let the reader understand what that word means?

    How about a gibberish poem? They're presumably from different backgrounds, and therefore have different mother tongues. Do they have a favourite word, favourite idiom, favourite phrase in their own languages? Can they make a poem from this sort of "language soup" and find a rhythm for it that fits? This would be a good exercise where they forget about the struggle for words and really focus on rhyme and rhythm I think. Can they throw in a favourite line of a song or movie quote from English, or another language?

    For discussion: What's the purpose of poetry vs narrative writing? You, the teacher, can then provide them with a piece of narrative and a poem on the same topic, and ask them what each piece offers that's the same, and that's different. Which medium is better for which purpose. Or perhaps provide them with a novel, as novels often use lines of poetry at the beginning of books to set the tone or the theme - you can choose a novel with such an opening and have your pupils discuss the purpose behind this choice. Or a book like Lord of the Rings could be interesting, since Tolkien often incorporates poetry into his prose. What's the famous line? Not all who wander are lost. Why is the impact so much greater because it is a poem?

    Lastly, do they have a favourite poem from their own country they'd like to share? Can they translate it? Can they now try and translate it so it fits into a certain rhythm or rhyme? I can tell you, as an immigrant kid, the opportunity to share my heritage culture and speak Cantonese at the time was liberating. You could look at nursery rhymes - those are poems too, really. What's the difference between a poem and a song? What sort of rhymes do they have back home?

    One heads up: don't do what my teacher did, which was ask me to translate the Owl and the Pussy Cat without giving me any help to do it at all, and then not checking the result before asking me to read it to class. The result was I babbled Cantonese gibberish and no one was any wiser about it, and this demeans my heritage more than it encourages it because it just proved to me how insignificant it actually was, how utterly meaningless. If you're gonna incorporate your pupils' heritage and languages into this, do so carefully, and make sure to check the work in some way.

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Jul 25, 2020
    Cdn Writer, Xoic, EFMingo and 2 others like this.
  5. Lazaares

    Lazaares Active Member

    Joined:
    Apr 16, 2020
    Messages:
    169
    Likes Received:
    230
    Location:
    Europe
    My literature teacher maintained our interest in poetry through comparisons / relevance to contemporary works. More precisely, we had a lot of times assignments where we compared a work of literature to modern rock/metal songs. An example: comparing Goethe's Erlkönig to Rammstein's Dalai Lama. It's a very niche and risky thing to do, but it worked wonders in my class (we were a rocker/metalhead majority class in high school).

    A consideration, don't forget that well-written song lyrics are poetry in their own right and may garner a lot more attention from a young audience than an aged work from the past.
     
  6. Heydonz

    Heydonz Member

    Joined:
    Apr 21, 2020
    Messages:
    24
    Likes Received:
    17
    Thanks a lot everyone. @Mckk - those poems sound perfect. Actually all of the kids speak Chinese (mostly Mandarin - a few Cantonese as well) and are from East Asia. Just wondering do you know of any good Chinese poems I could show them? Maybe analyzing a poem in their native language (that they understand better than me) would really engage them.
     
    Cdn Writer likes this.
  7. Mckk

    Mckk Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2010
    Messages:
    6,366
    Likes Received:
    4,352
    Crikey, I'm way too out of touch with Chinese culture to know. But you know, my dad was watching a Chinese drama that was rather popular even in the west, I think, called 花千骨 (Journey of Flower) - and I remember my dad, who's really into Chinese literature, told me the songs are highly poetic and written beautifully. Might you consider dissecting song lyrics?

    Here's the wiki article to the soundtrack:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Journey_of_Flower#Soundtrack

    Here's one of the songs, which I really love as well - the English translation is in the video:


    When you're dealing with Chinese poetry though, there's gonna be a lot of 4-worded compound sayings and you'll be dealing with different poetic conventions. If you're in China, chances are your pupils could tell you some of this stuff better than me, as I was primarily educated in the UK. Translation might need to take a few stages - firstly taking just the meaning of the words, then considering which aspects of the Chinese are poetic and should be retained regardless, and which aspects of the Chinese meaning could be left out, and then to consider what makes a good poem in English, and then to combine all these elements. In Chinese you can often combine two sayings together to add layers of meaning to a single line - so something might be 2 words, but because each word is a root taken from their own respective sayings that the Chinese will instinctively know, those 2 words end up carrying the full meaning of both of those sayings. It gets kinda complicated lol.

    If you're looking at analysing Chinese as poetry, naming conventions would be very interesting, I think. Maybe you know this, but we make up our own names. There are standard combos that a lot of people go for, but you can make anything up really. And two words could sound the same but have vastly different meanings - depending on how you write it, the meaning changes. You can imagine the variety of meanings that can exist even in the standard forms. The reason why I argue this could be an aspect of poetry is because I remember my dad and his brothers' names. So Chinese names are usually made up of 2 words (or sometimes 1, but more commonly 2) Each of the 3 brothers carries the word "Country" in their names. And the second word in their names basically identifies each brother. The oldest was given the word Pillar. The second was given the word Plank/Beam. The third, my dad, was given the word Mortar.

    The three sons, together, built a house for the country.

    When my dad had me and my sister, he decided to carry that over. Chinese exists in compound words. The word "Country" is the root that is paired up with the word "family" (put together, it carries the meaning of the root: Country). So that is why the first word in my name is "family" - in order to carry over my dad's name, "Country" - to make a country together. More commonly, the sound of the first word in my name would be written differently - it would have been typically the word for "joy" - but my dad chose "family" specifically to create this association. His brothers liked it so much, both of my cousins also have "family" as the first word in their name lol.

    So it could be an aspect of culture you could look into. This is probably a bit of a tangent now, but interesting, right? :D
     
    Cdn Writer, Xoic, EFMingo and 2 others like this.
  8. OJB

    OJB A Mean Old Man Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2016
    Messages:
    1,338
    Likes Received:
    1,236
    Location:
    Chicago, IL.
    I think the Raven is fine starting point for children. Why? Because what to do Children like? Fantasy. Monsters. Creepy Stuff. Etc. You need to think of things that children this age are interested in, and find poems that match those ideas.

    This provides a much greater challenge than a lot of people realize. 75% of poetry is written in some type of Meter. English meter is based on Stress values, but not all langues have a stressed-based system (Some are duration and others are pitch based). This means that trying to Learn English Meter might prove difficult if they are trying to apply their first langue principles to English. In my opinion, Sound devices (alliteration, Consonance, Assonance, internal Rhyme, and Onomatopoeia) are the best place to start. Why? Because we all love sound.

    I would look are poems that play with sound.

    -
    A really good contemporary poem would be 'Requiem for Iron Man Vasquez' by Jason Mott (It is on his blog, but it was also printed in the 2008 literary magazine Measure.) It is a fine poem about the Batman villain Bane (something children might be interested in.)
     
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2020
    Cdn Writer, Heydonz and EFMingo like this.
  9. JLT

    JLT Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 6, 2016
    Messages:
    1,213
    Likes Received:
    1,498
    I remember that, at that age, I was attracted to the humorous poetry of Richard Armour.
     
    Cdn Writer likes this.
  10. ReproveTheCurlew

    ReproveTheCurlew Active Member

    Joined:
    Nov 6, 2015
    Messages:
    187
    Likes Received:
    179
    Location:
    London
    The combination of them being young and non-native speakers is a tough one. Perhaps Ezra Pound's Cathay? It's fairly cheap to find on amazon, and it's a set of excellent quasi-translations (quasi in that he wrote the poems based on notebooks with transcriptions of the words, rather than translating them himself) of various Chinese poets (among them Li Bai (whom they should know)), and they're quite easy but very musical, so there's a lot in them. I agree with OJB on the sound devices that you could teach, though I'd rather take an approach of showing them the real-life application and how you can trace them in the poems (and normal spoken language), rather than using the technical terms immediately - that might put them off.
     
    Cdn Writer, Heydonz and EFMingo like this.
  11. Larro

    Larro Member

    Joined:
    Jun 29, 2020
    Messages:
    76
    Likes Received:
    141
    Location:
    Bed
    What really got me into it as a teenager was war poetry by Wilfred Owen and Siegried Sassoon. Heart-wrenching stuff. It felt important - more so than Odes on Grecian Urns etc. (not to disparage Keats. I enjoyed him too).
     
  12. Rzero

    Rzero Reluctant voice of his generation Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 29, 2018
    Messages:
    1,226
    Likes Received:
    2,198
    Location:
    Texas
    One of my favorite literature teachers, I think it was eighth grade, had every student bring in a copy of their favorite song lyrics, and we each read them aloud, then he chose a few with poetic merit to analyze in depth during the next class. It was very engaging.

    I know it's been said, but Poe really speaks to young teens. For me though, the breakthrough was discovering e.e. cummings in the ninth grade. I was really taken with the abstract nature of his work. The total lack of adherence to traditional form resonated with me. Although, I think you have to understand a bit about traditional poetry first to appreciate some of what he was doing. You sort of have to know the rules to break them properly.
     
    Cdn Writer, Xoic and Heydonz like this.
  13. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    16,871
    Likes Received:
    18,699
    Location:
    Scotland
    My problem with poetry in general is that I'm still quite childish about it. I love storytelling. I got started with nursery rhymes, and A Child's Garden of Verses, by Robert Louis Stevenson. Even Dr Seuss, which, I suppose, is poetry. :) If a poem has a story to it (narrative poetry) I love it—Victorian narrative and very dramatic poetry especially. I also loved poetry with historical content.

    Poems like Paul Revere's Ride, The Highwayman, The Inchcape Rock, God's Judgement on Hatto, The Wonderful One-Hoss Shay (The Deacon's Masterpiece), The Pied Piper of Hamlin, Tam O' Shanter (now that I'm familiar with the Scots dialect, this is a joy!) The Revenge, etc. I even memorised "The Yarn of the Nancy Bell" for a fifth grade class project, and I can still recite it to this day.

    I was introduced to these narrative poems at a very early age ...my mother used to read them aloud to us, and we were glued. I thought THAT was poetry. Once I got to school and was exposed to the more ...introspective? ...kind of poetry, I found myself losing interest.

    To some extent, I've never actually regained that interest. The modern poets whom I like a lot, like Robin Robertson and Norman McCaig, are straightforward with what they want us to learn—or are actually master storytellers (like Robin Robertson.) I'm not a fan of dwithery poetry that makes us wonder what the heck the poet is on about. Or philosophical treatises in verse form. I'm a fan of a poet who takes something specific, and, quickly, and elegantly, makes it universal—and leaves us to make the connection. I love poets whose concise images make me think, hey, I never thought of it THAT way before! Yes, of course. I like to learn something right away, without having to 'delve' into a poet's convoluted thinking processes. But the lessons from straightforward poems do stick.

    I think you can do worse to get children introduced to poetry by concentrating on these two things: storytelling and obvious significance. The plainer these things are presented, the better. In my opinion, anyway.
     
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2020
    Cdn Writer and Heydonz like this.
  14. Larro

    Larro Member

    Joined:
    Jun 29, 2020
    Messages:
    76
    Likes Received:
    141
    Location:
    Bed
    I had a Children's Book of Verse when I was a kid and The Highwayman was my favourite - so dark and exciting. Poor Bess, the landlord's daughter! Same book as the one pictured above except mine had a picture of Sir Nicketty Nox on the front. Still have it and I love it :)
     
    Cdn Writer and jannert like this.
  15. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    16,871
    Likes Received:
    18,699
    Location:
    Scotland
    Yeah, I think those kinds of story poems are great to get kids interested. But maybe they'll end up like me ...and struggle to make the jump to other kinds of poetry. I can't wholeheartedly make the recommendation for my approach. There is a lot of beautiful poetry out there that doesn't move me much, and it probably should.

    I remember being assigned to teach the Host of Golden Daffodils one to a class of 9th graders, and thinking ...shit, what am I going to say about this hoary old chestnut. Okay, it was a good way to describe what wild daffodils look like—which didn't actually register with a northern Michigander and my class of equally northern Michiganders—and it's nice to remember pretty things when you can't see them any more, but beyond that ...what? We all quickly moved on. I probably should be ashamed of myself.
     
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2020
    Cdn Writer and Larro like this.
  16. Catrin Lewis

    Catrin Lewis Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2014
    Messages:
    3,637
    Likes Received:
    3,844
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    Due to the slang, they may not do for the students you're dealing with, but when we had to chose poems of memorize in 8th grade (13th years old), two I picked were Rudyard Kipling's "Oonts" and his "Tommy." The first is a humorous poem about a camel, and the second a wry, satirical, somewhat bitter one about the treatment of ordinary soldiers.
     
    Cdn Writer and jannert like this.
  17. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum

    Joined:
    Dec 24, 2019
    Messages:
    2,089
    Likes Received:
    3,246
    Location:
    edge of the spacetime continuum
    I wonder if it would help that there's a song made from this poem? A rather excellent one IMO:


    ... She also turned The Lady of Shallot into a song:
     
    jannert and Heydonz like this.
  18. Mckk

    Mckk Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2010
    Messages:
    6,366
    Likes Received:
    4,352
    Wanted to let you know, I shared the video of The Highwayman with my colleague in Year 6 - this poem is part of their curriculum! Don't know if she'll choose to use it, but it's always nice to have additional resource, so thank you!
     
    Cdn Writer, jannert and Xoic like this.

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.
    Dismiss Notice