Why Teach Poetry?

Why teach poetry? Because poetry is the most compact form of literature. It demands the author to use the least amount of words possible to describe ideas, feelings, sounds, events and more. Putting the right words together is like solving a complex puzzle marrying intellect, intuition, emotion and vocabulary.  Understanding the complexities of poetry is the study of so many subjects rolled in to one big, juicy lesson.
Every word, punctuation mark, line break, and space has meaning. Poetry is the Pi of word-play using math, science, history, art, empathy, anger, excitement, sights, smells, tastes… (the ingredients are limitless) and it’s fun!

.“Poems are a form of music, and language just happens to be our instrument—language and breath.”
—Terrance Hayes, Academy of American Poets Chancellor (2017–present)

The complexities and intentions of the grandest murals can meet their match in poetry. The giant and beautiful mural above features at Wynwood Walls in Miami.

Poetry connects and heals. Poetry connects 1) the writer to the reader, 2) the writer to him/herself and 3) the reader to him/herself. Upon sharing, poetry then connects 4) the reader AND writer to others. Healing happens naturally when we mingle our stories; when we take the time to understand others. It is a most intimate form of relating.

One of the sweetest picture books alive is “A Poem that Heals Fish” by Jean-Pierre Siméon.

Subscribing to Poets.org brings a poem a day to my inbox, which exposes us to new poets and innovative types of writing. American Poet Edward Hirsch* writes, “Reading poetry well is part attitude and part technique.” Approaching poems with curiosity and an open-mind are crucial.

We love watching/listening to Spoken Word poets. These poets amaze, with their passion and ability to perform their stories. In Chicago, the Spoken Word poetry scene is incomparable. It is on my teacher-mom-wish-list to attend  “Louder Than a Bomb” – an annual youth poetry competition in Chicago. Over 1,200 students from area schools perform original solo and group poems in a tournament. There is a documentary film of the competition with the same name, “Louder Than a Bomb” that will rock, inspire and make you cry like a baby. It’s THAT powerful.

“Louder Than A Bomb” is the largest youth poetry festival in the world.  (Chicago, IL)

There is another subscription service for teachers I use called, “Teach this Poem”, which provides a relevant poem and a complete lesson plan to go along with it. Nothing to do, but open the email and presto! Instant lesson.  When analyzing poetry, there are so many questions to ask and no real wrong answers, but the discussion is always interesting. I have found that with practice, if you read poetry from an open, tender place in your heart, a connection will be undoubtedly be made.


Sweet harmony will sound,

                                                   as the pale-hued morning 

shifts to a golden, pink-white sky.


(–excerpt from “The Morning of 52” by Lynne Rey)

I write poetry because of what it does for me. It allows my mind to go into a creative, meditative state for as much time as is needed to connect with a moment in time, a color, a thought, a feeling. Then I write about only that, denying any distractions that might break my concentration. Just me, my breathing, my pen, moving to the heartbeat of whatever my thoughts produce. It is truly spiritual.

Travel opens my heart, mind and soul to sights I had never-before dreamed of.  I am grateful to have found poetry and painting as mediums to understand, relate and share all that I see and do. I feel fortunate to be able to share this practice with my kids.

This year I will gift my kids each with the book, “A Poem for Every Day of the Year” by Esiri Ali and “A Poem for Every Night of the Year” by Howard Hughes. I believe there is no finer way to start the day than meditation and reading a good poem.  And certainly no softer way to drift asleep.

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