When the Prof Says We’re Learning Poetry, Don’t Run


Unconfined by academic formalities, uncaged by the minds of writers, unbounded by its potentialities, poetry has to be one of my favourite things to teach. Most, I think, might think of Shakespearean pentameter, and ending doublets, rhythmic ta-ta-tee as was learned in our Kindergarten classes, and is still taught today. Others might think of Poe’s The Raven, its long narrative spooky still, especially when read aloud, just as it was in the mid-1800s. Or just as likely, Dr. Seuss’s Green Eggs and Ham because of its classic rhyming narrative, will do nicely. Poems, rhyming or not, deserve better than to be relegated to the “Oh man, not that!” slot, as many of my tutees have expressed to me on multiple occasions. I’ve managed to trick, er…no, hahaha, convince a few that poetry, while often a big red flag of “Uh oh, this is too hard to understand.” response, is merely a well disguised expression of something we all have in common. We’re in tune with it every day. We are connected to it. It is a part of us; we are “it”.

There’s no riddle here. Poets are part of this too. In fact, if they weren’t, they’d have nothing to write about. It’s what plagues every narrative ever written, and will do forevermore. What is innately us is what feeds and diseases the minds of poets past and present. The very same that artists explore through paints on canvas, stone into sculpture, pixels on a screen –the very same outlets that help to define, or try to reach out for understanding, captures our attention –and what, pray tell, would that be?, you ask. Something that isn’t at arm’s length, but rather is closer to us the way light osmotically wraps us like nothing else in any other way, and without escape.

Think of it this way, it’s more than the love Romeo has for Juliet, more than what prevails in the film Stella Got Her Groove Back, or what captures our imagination of the white-bearded guy who breaks into our homes every year and never manages the front door –the why of why we continue spinning such stories, and really, coming around to my point here in part is that poems are merely stories, and we can all relate to stories, right? is the one thing that envelopes it all. We seek to understand the one thing of what we are –our human nature. According to evolutionists, and scientists of our day, we are, as humans, thousands of years old. Our Modern English –a scant few hundred. Poetry rests on the back of the language we speak, but its inherent value is what draws us to that or any other art form, and why we needn’t run when the prof announces that poetry is the next section. Poems merely reflect our human nature as mini-stories (though there are some well-known exceptions); they are glimpses into the moments that connect us all. That is poetry. See, not so hard.