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I was recently contacted by a teacher (and student) from Mexico City. The high school students are studying poetry, and the teacher wants to find more ways to engage the students. They asked me to answer these questions. My goal is to help them understand poetry and to feel more connected to it. If you are an educator, please use this as a guide to help you in your classroom. These questions were asked by the teacher.
How can students understand and feel poems?
- Read each poem aloud.
With each poem, ask the students to read it aloud. Then ask them to find one line they feel connected to. The line will serve as a thread they can pull from, a door and enter. Ask them to write down 1 line that connects them to something in their own experience.
- Use Diverse Examples Of Poetry
Some may not agree with this, but when I was a teacher I learned that connecting with students on their level was helpful. Don’t be afraid to use music as a reference. If your students prefer musicians to written poets, let them reference that and discuss how it relates to poetry.
The Personal Will Become Universal for New Poetry Students
I believe the personal is universal. Poetry is a collection of personal stories strung together by metaphor and a hunger to be seen while observing the world. In understanding some of the most personal stories of another human being, we begin to understand that nothing in our story is unusual. We live in different parts of the world at different times and have different eyes and different skin, but we all hunger for the same thing: to make meaning of our lives and the world around us. we want to know that our lives signify something.
This is how the students will understand a poem. They will find that one line that becomes a window or a door into their own world and they will remember that they also want to have significant life and have mattered to someone.
How can students feel inspired to participate in poetry class?
Write A Collective Poem
I suggest aking the students to write a collective poem, where each person contributes one line. I usually start with one line and pass the paper around until each student contributes something. Hopefully, this exercise will create community. Sometimes students feel shy to write a poem on their own, so this is a great way to involve everyone.
I think teachers should also participate and add a line.
How To Write A Collective Poem
- Start with one large piece of paper.
- Ask each student to contribute one line. They should not think too much about this. The line does not have to be perfect. They can write down anything that comes to their mind. This exercise should be fun.
- The teacher should also add a line to the poem.
- Pass the paper around the circle 1 or 2 times. It depends on how many students you have. If you have 30, then one time will work well. If you have 5, then I suggest passing the paper around 2 or 3 times.
Has poetry helped you in your work as a web designer and entrepreneur?
Approaching Web Design As A Digital Storyteller
Creating websites is a form of storytelling. Before I build or design anything, I try to find the story.What is the story each business is trying to tell? This work is (in part) digital storytelling. I use modern tools like coding, web design and digital marketing but it is the story that connects it all.
Good Web Design Is Good Storytelling
An impactful website tells a good story. That story then takes website visitors on a journey. At the end of that journey, your website visitors can choose to leave or arrive at a destination where they are asked to take action.
Businesses ask customers to buy from them, sign up for their newsletter, contact them or read their content.
The late poet Mary Oliver said this about poetry and professional life:
“Poetry isn’t a profession, it’s a way of life. It’s an empty basket; you put your life into it and make something out of that.”
So yes, poetry does help me in my work as a web designer and entrepreneur. It gives me a perspective, a container through which I can put my work into. And that container helps me when I design from the perspective of a storyteller and a lover of language.
It also helps me when I speak at conferences and poetry festivals. My work as a poet prepared me for the public part of my tech work. Some days I design websites. Some days I also travel and speak at business conferences. When I walk onto the stage, I feel more confident because I have experience doing this as a poet.
I believe that we all so desperately need a perspective that informs how we connect with the world on a personal and professional level.
Poetry is my container and my worldview that informs (and enriches) the work I do.