Tuesday, November 02, 2010

More on Marilyn Singer and Poetry

Since I'm introducing Marilyn Singer to you and the folks at our NCTE panel in a few weeks, I thought it might be helpful to explore some of Marilyn's work and ideas about poetry in a format a bit different from yesterday's interview. So, here are some points of interest.

On Poetry for Kids
As part of the kickoff of National Poetry Month this year, School Library Journal published an article by Marilyn Singer entitled Knock Poetry Off the Pedestal: It's time to make poems a part of children's everyday lives. In it Marilyn wrote:
I know firsthand that most kids seem to like poetry. But something amiss happens along the road to adulthood, and many of those same students end up actively disliking poetry or not relating to it.
Now the ironic thing about this is that I could easily replace the word poetry with science and the sentence and sentiment would be exactly the same. What makes this discouraging is that it's not the subject itself that leads our students to disliking it, but rather the way we teach it. Don't believe me? Consider this excerpt from the poem Introduction to Poetry by Billy Collins.
But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.
So, how can we encourage and engender an appreciation or even affection for poetry (they don't have to love it, just see the beauty in it) in young people? Marilyn shares her thoughts and ideas, as well as those of other poets in the SLJ article. What ties all these ideas together are the notions of exposure and playfulness. Kids need to be exposed to poetry of every kind and they need to hear it. We, the purveyors of poetry in schools and classrooms, need to make it fun! Perhaps if we do this we can inspire kids to carry poetry with them on more occasions than Poem in Your Pocket Day.

On Writing Poetry
On her web site, Marilyn offers 10 tips for writing poetry. The first appeals to the scientist in me and might just explain why I love poetry so much. It is:
Pay attention to the world around you—little things, big things, people, animals, buildings, events, etc. What do you see, hear, taste, smell, feel?
This is, of course, what poets do. Not only do they look closely, but they encourage us to see things in new ways.

Marilyn in Her Own Words
You can learn more about Marilyn and her work (poetry and other genres too!) in these links.
Your Turn
Want to know more about Marilyn and her work? Here's your chance. Marilyn will answer questions you submit regarding her work, process, poetry, and probably anything within reason. Leave your questions in the comments or send them directly to me at pstohrhu (at) richmond (dot) edu. I will forward them to Marilyn and will round up her answers for you next week.

On the Horizon
Between now and November 12th I'll be featuring a number of Marilyn's poetry books. I will be sharing a bit of insight from Marilyn about each title as well as suggestions for using the books in the classroom. Up tomorrow is Mirror, Mirror: A Book of Reversible Verse. Be sure to come back and visit as I'll have a copy of the book to give away!

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