Teaching poetry is important, yet often neglected, writes teacher Andrew Simmons in The Atlantic.
. . . poetry enables teachers to teach their students how to write, read, and understand any text. Poetry can give students a healthy outlet for surging emotions. Reading original poetry aloud in class can foster trust and empathy in the classroom community, while also emphasizing speaking and listening skills that are often neglected in high school literature classes.
“Poetry can become a gateway to other forms of writing” by teaching “precise, economical diction,” Simmons writes.
However, discussing a poem can turn into an “in-class disembowelment of a poem’s meaning,” Simmons concedes. Teachers are encouraged to teach a “process of demystification” rather than “curating a powerful experience through literature.”
In his poem “Introduction to Poetry,” (Billy Collins) writes: “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.”
Teachers should teach “writing, grammar, and analytical strategies” — and help students “see that literature should be mystifying,” concludes Simmons. Poetry, which resists easy interpretations, is perfect for this.