Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Or maybe it's not memory at all?

Oh, hell. Too many ideas now: pleasure ideas (via Barthes and others), memory vs. nostalgia ideas. I'm sure on some level they all fit together, and will do so in the final essay, but right now, they're a jumble and distraction. Bring on the elves, folks; this shoemaker's out of here.

It's the Hard Knock Life

Sorry so silent recently, everyone. I'm back at work on an essay, on one of my favorite Jewish American poets, Norman Finkelstein, for a collection of essays on "Secular Jewish Culture and Radical Poetic Practice." Haven't actually written an essay in almost a year now, not since a longish piece on Muriel Rukeyser for Parnassus, and it's hard, damned hard, to get the wheels rolling again. (Blogging helps me write blog entries, not essays, evidently.)

I spent yesterday rereading Norman's first book, Restless Messengers, in a state of near panic that may be a familiar part of my own writing process--but that doesn't make it any easier! Discovered, late in the day, a curious frame for the book as a whole, which I'd never noticed before. The first poem ushers us into a "living structure of memory," while the last declares that "the Sabbath of memory is over." One of those noticings that seems utterly obvious, once you've seen it, but I'd missed it for a decade. That sent me off to Yosef Yerushalmi's book on Jewish history and Jewish memory, Zakhor, for the rest of the day, and I woke up ready to hammer out a draft of at least that portion of the essay.

Well, it's lunchtime now, and I've written--what? Two paragraphs? Grrr... Trying to thrash out the difference (if there is one) between that "living structure of memory" and the sort of "nostalgic rememberence" that Norman writes about in other modern Jewish writers. There is one, I think--but how to put it into words and, at the same time, ground that discussion in something said, attentive and insightful, about particular poems?

I can't complain too loudly. After all, this sure beats working for a living. But it's a useful reminder, as I head back into teaching, of just how hard writing about poems can be, even for an old, old hand like me.

Thursday, August 25, 2005


A good day at the library, friends. It turns out that Skokie PL has a copy of Allen Grossman's elusive Introduction to Poetry lectures-on-cassette, which I've hankered after for years now. Not only can I listen to them in the car during my morning crawl to the office--well, I can if I borrow my daughter's tape player, at least--I can also crib new ideas for my own Reading Poetry course in the fall! (Naturally, you'll hear about them here, too, and on the listserv.)

But wait! There's more! At the Friends of the Library sale table, I scored, for a dollar a throw, Patrick Kavanagh's Collected Poems, an old Carl Rakosi collection, Amulet, and a copy of Annie Finch's Eve. Not quite the sort of haul that Mark brings back from NYC, but it will do for a poor boy like me.

Here's a poem I like from the start of the Finch. It has a lovely dactylic feel, which is always fun (she's written on how such meters have been coded "feminine" at various times); it also reminds me of my daughter, who is always a hoot in church and just after, singing parodies of the hymns. (Sometimes inadvertant, but brilliant, as in: "Glory to God in the highest, / And peace to us people on Earth." Shades of Yehuda Amichai: "God-Full-of-Mercy, the prayer for the dead. / If God was not full of mercy, / Mercy would have been in the world, / Not just in Him.") But I digress: here's the poem:

Running in Church
--for Marie

Then, you were a hot-thinking, thin-lidded tinderbox.
Losing your balance meant nothing at all. You would
pour through the aisles in the highest cathedrals,
careening deftly as patriarchs brooded.

You made the long corridors ring, tintinnabular
echoes exploring the pounded cold floor,
forcing the walls to the truth of your progress:
there was a person in this church's core.

Past thick stained-glass colors wafted and swirling
in pooled interludes that swung down from the rafters,
cinnabar wounds threw light on your face, where the
pliant young bones were dissolving in laughter.
Wonderful, that--especially "brooded," which implicitly feminizes those patriarchs via Milton (God brooding, bird-like, over the abyss), and at the close, I think, where you need to imagine the road-not-taken, the unwritten, but clearly imagined alternative course the daughter's life might have taken (her bones not pliant but stiffening, not dissolving but growing rigid, not in laughter but in tears or punishment) for the poem's real bite to be felt. Wonderful shift in diction, too, from the first line to the last. How did that happen, I ask myself--or would ask my students.

Great fun all around.


Feeling terribly scattered this morning--all this week, really. A mix of my usual start-of-the-school-year energy and optimism and my also-usual, by now at least, anxiety over all the projects left unfinished over the summer. Some unstarted, even. "The summer is over, the harvest is done, and we are not saved": that sort of thing. Easier to gather books than to read them, easier to read them than to write about them, easier to do anything--but anything--than write!

(Write what? Well, let's see: an essay on Norman Finkelstein--the poet, not the radical historian--; another on novels about poets; another on A. S. Byatt's Possession; a couple of short takes and book reviews. When I was younger, I could bang out such things in a few weeks' time. Nowadays, it takes that long to get the wheels in motion.)

A couple of the tasks ahead of me--the ones most relevant to this blog--have to do with my "Reading Poetry" and "Teaching Poetry" classes for the fall. In the former, I need to choose the poems to teach: this year I've ordered up the big new Norton Anthology of Poetry, but I haven't really the slightest idea what to do with it. A chronological survey? A course by topic, by theme? This will be the 20th time I've taught the course, so I need to do something new to keep myself engaged, but what? As for the "Teaching Poetry" class, it will be based more or less on the seminar I taught this summer, so that shouldn't be too hard to set up--but I fret, nevertheless.

OK: off to do something more or less useful, like wrap up the permissions for this long-a-comin' Ronald Johnson collection. As a thank you gift for all of you who've read along this far, here's a favorite, Ron-Johnson-like poem by James Merrill, whose auto-elegiac tone has nothing to do with why I'm posting it, I hope!

b o d y

Look closely at the letters. Can you see,
entering (stage right), then floating full,
then heading off - so soon -
how like a little kohl-rimmed moon
o plots her course from b to d

--as y, unanswered, knocks at the stage door?
Looked at too long, words fail,

phase out. Ask, now that body shines

no longer, by what light you learn these lines

and what the b and d stood for.

More soon,

Monday, August 15, 2005

Kettle Bottom Gets Spanked

Well, I'm back from vacation, and have spent the day sifting through emails, catching up on my comrades-in-blog, and posting squibs of various sorts to A Big Jewish Blog and the Say Something Wonderful Yahoo Group.

One bit of news that caught my eye from the Wom-po list: Smith College has assigned a book of poetry as their "class book" this fall: Kettle Bottom, by Diane Gilliam Fisher, which uses dramatic monologues to investigate and bring to life the West Virginia coal mine wars of 1920-21. ("Think Edgar Lee Masters meets Walker Evans," quips a review that's linked to the Smith website announcing the choice.)

Evidently Marjorie Perloff has blasted the selection, but since I don't have the Chronicle of Higher Education access, I can't quote her--and don't want to put words in her mouth. As a sometime West Virginian, however, I couldn't be happier if the Mountaineers won the...well, whatever it is they could win. (Alas, my daddy never managed to make me a football fan.)

From the Smith website, here is "A Reporter from New York Asks Edith Mae Chapman, Age Nine, What Her Daddy Tells her about the Strike":
We ain’t to go in the company store, mooning
over peppermint sticks, shaming ourselves like a dog
begging under the table. They cut off our account
but we ain’t no-account. We ain’t to go to school
so’s the company teacher can tell us we are.
The ain’t going to meeting and bow our heads
for the company preacher, who claims it is the meek
will inherit the coal fields, instead of telling
how the mountains will crumble and rocks
rain down like fire upon the heads
of the operators, like it says in the Bible.
We ain’t to talk to now dirtscum scabs
and we ain’t to talk to God. My daddy
is very upset with the Lord.

Friday, August 05, 2005

See you at the lake!

Stray thoughts before I leave for vacation--back the 15th or 16th--until then, "on hiatus" (I gather that's the term of art)--
Loveliest of bloggers, Emily Lloyd, has a quick riff on slant rhyme in rap (and in "Bette Davis Eyes," no less)! Now if only she'd repost--or just send me--her previous post on rap & poetry! I meant to link & respond to it, but now it's gone, daddy, gone....

A comment on yesterday's poem begged me for the author's name. Sorry about that! "The Thief" is by Dorianne Laux; I found the poem in Sam Hamill's anthology The Erotic Spirit.


Meanwhile, chez Mark, a fab new Hart Crane graphic (my comments from yesterday distilled, and you know how I love things distilled--hic!--) and this tonally elusive musing over the way we read radically different sorts of poetry:
Isn’t there a matter of fundamentally different standards at play – fundamentally different things one expects poetry to do and be? And how does one negotiate between those different standards without falling into superficial eclecticism? (I dig Lyn Hejinian when I want to see complex issues of memory and perception explored in a tentative manner, and when I’m in the mood for solid statements about the meaning of life, there’s nothing like a bit of Billy Collins…)
You tell me: is that parenthetical quote meant to be bone-dry humor--a gin martini of "superficial eclecticism," two olives, on the rocks--or are we meant to take it like bourbon, sweet and straight, no chaser? The Billy Collins tag suggests the former, but as an idea, it rings true to me: we do have just these sorts of disparate moods--moods which do not believe in one another, as Emerson says in "Experience"--and I at least pick up poems and poets to suit them. "Superficial eclecticism": the critical theory that dare not speak its name.


That last joke is a steal from myself, from an essay on Rukeyser in the latest Parnassus. Let me know if you want a copy; or, better yet, order it up! I'll post a teaser from it when I return.


Poet, critic, and all-around good guy Peter "Legolas" O'Leary emails me the address of his new website,, which looks to be the place to go for all things Ronald Johson. (Peter is RJ's literary executor, and a better choice was never made, folks. Trust me on this.) Just click on the mystic, runic letters--is that an umlaut on the i, dude?--to get in.


I promised I'd post my Romance Novel syllabus--no time for that, but here's the reading list so far:

Alpha Males and Bodice Rippers

E. M. Hull, The Sheik; Katherine Woodweis, The Flame and the Flower, Emma Holly, Hunting Midnight

Austen and Everything After (Regencies)
Georgette Heyer, These Old Shades; Julia Quinn, The Viscount Who Loved Me; Mary Ballogh, Slightly Dangerous

Building a Mystery (Romantic Suspense) Mary Stewart, Madam, Will You Talk? Linda Howard, Mr. Perfect

Historicals (non-Hysterical dept.)
Roberta Gellis, Desiree; Beverly Jenkins, Something Like Love

Contemporaries and Meta-Romance
Sarah Bird, The Boyfriend School; Jennifer Crusie, Bet Me

Not, by any means, a thorough survey of the genre, but it will do for a start--and I'll turn my students loose on research assignments in search of other subgenres and exemplary works in each. I have a bunch of others ready to read this week, on vacation--if I do any last-minute ordering, I'll let you know.

If I have time before I leave, I'll edit this posting and link each title; otherwise, happy hunting, and see if you can spot the joke in the first group of texts. (Hint: where does the phrase "leader of the pack" actually come from, anyway?)

Otherwise, folks, this blog is now officially on HIATUS until a week from Monday. Read well and prosper. And join my Poetry Forum!

Off to the land o'lakes--

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Poems to Swoon For

A busy day over on the Say Something Wonderful Poetry Forum. Dead animal poems piling up like roadkill on a summer freeway: James Still, Gerald Stern, William Stafford, Robinson Jeffers... Finally this email from D--: "Ok, Eric. Let's not talk of dead animals & help me with my distaste for romantic love poetry. I enjoyed Neruda--share with me what you'll teach in your romance class."

In my usual tonedeaf professorial fashion, I fired off a version of my opening lecture on erotic and companionate traditions of love--a standby in several classes by now--and only then rethought the actual request. What I'll teach in my romance class? Like, the one on romance novels? Hmmm... What AM I going to teach in that class, anyway?

Tomorrow, then, before I put my blogs on hiatus, I'll post the syllabus (so far) of my romance class. For now, the poem I posted to D by way of an apology: a Poem to Swoon For. Any more out there you like?


What is it when your man sits on the floor
in sweatpants, his latest project
set out in front of him like a small world, maps
and photographs, diagrams and plans, everything
he hopes to build, invent or create,
and you believe in him as you always have,
even after the failures, even more now
as you set your coffee down
and move toward him, to where he sits
oblivious of you, concentrating
in a square of sun --
you step over the rulers and blue graph-paper
to squat behind him, and he barely notices,
though you're still in your robe
which falls open a little as you reach
around his chest, feel for the pink
wheel of each nipple, the slow beat
of his heart, your ear pressed to his back
to listen -- and you are torn,
not wanting to interrupt his work
but unable to keep your fingers
from dipping into the ditch in his pants,
torn again with tenderness
for the way his flesh grows unwillingly
toward your curved palm, toward the light,
as if you had planted it, this sweet root,
your mouth already an echo of its shape --
you slip your tongue into his ear
and he hears you, calling him away
from his work, the angled lines of his thoughts,
into the shapeless place you are bound
to take him, over bridges of bone, beyond
borders of skin, climbing over him
into the world of the body, its labyrinth
of ladders and stairs -- and you love
like the first time you loved him,
with equal measures of expectancy
and fear and awe, taking him with you
into the soft geometry of the flesh, the earth
before its sidewalks and cities,
its glistening spires,
stealing him back from the world he loves
into this other world he cannot build without you.


A lively exchange these days between Mark (see these four sequential posts) and one Henry Gould, whose fine, fine blog I now have stashed in my "Bookmarks" folder, on the subject of BBPs (Big Beautiful Poems) in general, and those of Pound, Williams, Olson, Zukofsky, and Crane in particular.

Since I've never actually read all of The Cantos, The Maximus Poems, or "A"--although I do know Paterson and The Bridge reasonably well--I was feeling a bit abashed by the whole discussion. Indeed, I was gearing up to read the Olson this month...but not on vacation, surely, I said to myself, hoisting all 3500 pounds of it out of my suitcase and replacing it with the equally plus-sized, but rather more attractive novels Outlander and Dragonfly in Amber (by Dana Gabaldon) and Red Mars (by Kim Stanley Robinson). Gould's most recent post, however, got me thinking--and feeling a bit less guilty in the bargain.

Crane's The Bridge, says Gould, "succeeds as a sustained reading experience, as a lyrical plot, as a continuous reading pleasure - in ways that the efforts by Pound, WCW, Olson & Zukofsky do not." Now, when you start talking pleasure, you're speaking my language: I read on:
What is the secret of difference here? It may have something to do with Crane's continued use of metrical lines - quadrimeter & pentameter iambics.
Where I come from, we call them "tetrameter," pilgrim. (Ptooi!) Still, I like where this is headed--which is:
The metric offered a bass line, a foundation, for a very crucial extension of the lyric poem into the longer sequence, and the sequence into a sequence-of-sequences, to make up the whole.
This rings true to my own experience of long metrical poems: that is, I can shift my attention somewhat, at any moment, to the simple onward chug of the meter; I can yield to it, give myself over, knowing that at any moment I can turn my attention elsewhere, to plot or character or "word painting" (as Merrill calls it early in the echt metrical Changing Light at Sandover, which I have read through several times). I won't argue the question here whether this rhythmic pleasure is biologically based or culturally programmed; suffice it to say that it's there, and at the very least adds something reliable to enjoy, as one can enjoy...I don't know, eating hot dogs at a baseball game? (My analogy-generator is on the fritz.) I read on:
What Crane's method does is stimulate a sort of "lyric objectivity". In Cantos, Paterson, "A", Maximus - by contrast - the poet is always in the foreground - maddeningly, ironically - despite the poet-histor's best efforts to import tons of supposedly objective, historical, documentary matter. (Zukofsky is probably a special case - ie. he worked his way out of this situation. But what laborious effort shows!)
Could we say, somewhat more simply, then, that in the four long poems Gould mentions here, the poet is the protagonist? That one story of each of these poems--maybe the central one, the one that holds our attention--is the struggle of the poet to write a poem, to grapple with his materials? No news there, except perhaps inasmuch as this explains where the narrative went in these long poems (a displacement, either outward, up a level, or downward, to the little local narratives that flicker in and out of view).

Later in his post, Gould muses on why "Mark & others remain unmoved" by Crane's BBP. "Mark mentions something about the authoritarianism implicit in Crane's mode of Platonic idealism," he writes.
I don't see it. What I see instead is a certain vulnerability in Crane's faith in the capability of poetic vision to offer a finished image of Eden or Paradise. The stock-in-trade of Pound, Olson & WCW is to invite the reader into the poet's unfinished struggle with the unfinished project of world-renewal. (Zukofsky, again, is a different case.) One participates in the poet's heroic though necessarily incomplete agon.

Crane's whole approach is different. He offers the image of the Brooklyn Bridge as a kind of analogical token or icon - the "Ever-Presence", the earthly, human gateway into paradisal reality. The equilibrium of the poem depends from (I should say "suspends" from), & partakes in, this glimpsed sphere of perfection. The bridge was the summa of the whole effort of American 20th-cent. writing, epitomized by Waldo Frank's paeans to Our America, etc.

It may be this Platonic-national idealism - the substance of Crane's argument, which rhymes with his notion of aesthetic beauty - that postmodern readers find hard to accept.
Two thoughts here: first, this post makes me wonder whether considering Crane and Ron Johnson as a couple (O happy thought! Those two "imparadised," or with Whitman, a threesome) might not spark some useful thoughts about the genres and poetics of "Platonic-national idealism" in the '30s and our own time, respectively. (Something for your dissertation, Josh?) Second, shouldn't we really call Crane's "token or icon" Christian, rather than strictly Platonic? It sure reads that way to me: the bridge-as-symbol-as-intersection-of-human-and-eternal comes straight out of Coleridge, if grad-school memory serves: it's a God-man in steel-cable clothing. Pound, Olson, Zukofsky, and WCW, by contrast, aren't writing Christian (or even post-Christian) verse, which is part of what makes them seem odder, more alien, less "readable" and more in need, page by page, of commentary.

(Are they all really Jewish poems, then? Gould's "unfinished project of world-renewal" sounds mighty tikkun olam-ish to me: Yours is not to complete the work; neither are you free to depart from it," etc. Too easy, this--but tempting! Tempting!)

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Ronald Johnson, Take Me Away!

A small but happy conversation going on over at the Say Something Wonderful Poetry Forum (already 43 members, and growing by the hour!) about how much folks liked reading Beam 10 of Ronald Johnson's ARK at the SSW NEH seminar this summer. We read it on the day we studied "Riddles and Charms," and participants were tickled to see how much sense they could make of it in conversation, when it seemed so elusive before the discussion began.

(For those of you who don't know the text, here it is: "daimon diamond monad I / Adam Kadmon in the sky." Yup, that's all of it. We started by looking up the words; "Adam Kadmon" is best hunted up as a phrase, a name, rather than as two separate words, although it functions that way too. Oh, and keep an ear out for puns.)

In any case, I was so pleased to see a teacher vow to "start each of my classes this year with the Adam poem" that I took a few minutes to hunt up some RJ resources on the web, easy to find. So here they are:

I'll post links to Ron's cookbooks on request. Thanks for reading, and I'll see you at the Forum!

Monday, August 01, 2005

Lists of websites for teachers

As long as I'm listing things here...

Periodically I troll the web to see what sorts of resources are out there for poetry teachers. Here are two sets of lists I've found and forwarded recently to the Say Something Wonderful Poetry Forum. Sign up and share your own!

First, a list of sites by and for teachers from the award-winning Web English Teacher website. The descriptions are theirs, not mine.

30 Days of Poetry from The English Room
A chart of 30 types of poetry, each linked to class activities and examples.

African American Poets Lesson
An excellent, five-day series of lessons using a variety of media. The lessons are very well structured and based upon standards.

Alliteration in Headline Poems
Designed for grades 6-8, this lesson asks students to create a headline poem using words that they have cut out from magazines and/or newspapers. Includes support materials and assessment criteria. Adobe Acrobat Reader is required to access the assignment handout.

Analyzing the Work of a Selected Poet
In this project, high school students conduct independent research on a poet. They present 5 poems, biographical information, and a poem they have written in that poet's style.

Appreciating the Bard's Art: Rewriting Shakespeare's Epitaph Using Iambic Pentameter
After reading Shakespeare's epitaph, students compose a more suitable one.

Arabic Poetry: Guzzle a Ghazal
Students experience the intricacies of the ghazal and work together to compose one. Includes examples.

Calling on the Muse: Exercises to Unlock the Poet Within
Posted at

The Chain Poem, a Way of Breaking the Ice
This lesson by Ingrid Wendt includes plans and samples of student writing. It is part of the National Writing Project.

Children's Poetry in The Poetry Zone
Ideas and printables for the elementary classroom.

Composing Cinquain Poems: A Quick-Writing Activity
Students in grades K-2 write cinquains in response to something they've been studying. Includes Web resources, assessment, and standards addressed.

Creative Communication presents A Celebration of Young Poets
A great poetry contest for students in grades 4-12, open to any student in the US or Canada; grants for schools; a free newsletter with tips from teachers for teaching poetry.

Craft of Poetry
Definitions and examples of a variety of terms related to poetry: blank verse, line and meter, tercet, imagery, sestina, style, and more.

Creating Found Poetry From Picture Books
Students in grades 6-8 identify poetic elements and strong word choice in a picture book to create "found poetry" based on the picture book.

A Dedication in Verse
Students collect, illustrate, and interpret poems; prepare a booklet; and present it to the recipient for whom they have selected the poems.

Figurative Language
This lesson focuses on identifying and creating similes, metaphors, and personification in literature and in students' own writing.

Figurative Language
This collection of links includes definitions, lessons for teaching simile and metaphor, idioms, analogies, and more. It is designed for elementary level but middle and high school teachers may also find it useful.

Fooling with Words with Bill Moyers
A Web companion to the PBS series, complete with lesson plans.

Found Poems
A simple, useful definition.

Found Poetry Assignment
Definition, assignment, rubric, and online resources.

Fruit Poetry
Students use a piece of fruit as inspiration for a poem.

Explanation and examples of ghazal (ancient Persian poetry) with additional links.

Glossary of Literary and Rhetorical Terms
Poetry types, meters, and figurative language defined with examples.

A collection of resources for teaching haiku.

Kristine O'Connell George
Children's poetry, an inviting site generous with ideas for teachers and students.

Introduction to Poetry
Students use music (without lyrics) and art to understand mood in addition to exploring figurative language and writing their own poems.

Knowing Ourselves and Others through Poetry
Designed for use with at-risk students, using formula poems to build rapport and develop skills.

"Knoxville, Tennessee" Poem Model
Students use Giovanni's poem as a model for their own writing.

The Omnificent English Dictionary In Limerick Form
Searchable database of limericks from throughout the English-speaking world. They also accept student work; be sure to read the notes to teachers and students first.

Metaphysical Poets
An extensive study guide for selected poems by John Donne, George Herbert, Andrew Marvell, and Henry Vaughan. Includes a definition of metaphysical poetry, a discussion of love, imagery, themes and subjects, and poetic form.

National Poetry Month
Instructional ideas and study guides for the material on The Writer's Almanac site.

Online Poetry Classroom
Sponsored by the Academy of American Poets, this site offers teacher forums, links to lesson plans, and transcripts from summer institutes, in addition to all the resources of

Performance Poetry
Students take their understanding of poetry to a new level through performance.

Photograph Lesson
Students and teachers write poetry based on photographs.

Play with Words: Rhyme & Verse
Students explore rhythm, rhyme, and haiku. These 6 standards-based lessons are designed for grades K-2.

These projects reflect a variety of approaches to poetry.

Poetic Terms
Definitions and examples of the most common poetic terms.

Poetry and the Planets
A Webquest: students use similes, metaphor, rhyme, and music to write lines to accompany NASA photos of planets.

Poetry Class
Thirty-eight lessons for grades 1-12 from a team of UK poets.

Poetry Express
Write 15 different kinds of poems, suggestions for poetry workshop, tips for revision, suggestions for publishing.

Poetry for the Elementary Classroom
Background, 3 lessons, and bibliographies.

Poetry Forge
Interactive poetry generators for classroom use, lesson plans, exemplars, and collaborative discussion areas.

Poetry Island
Students form teams, choose a poet and four poems, and convince classmates that their poet is best in specific categories. Each day a poet is voted off the island. A terrific classroom adaptation of a popular TV program.

Poetry Master
A published poet offers to assist others. Be sure to check out the links "Chicken Bones" and "Master Plan."

Poetry Slam
Links to resources and ideas for poetry slams in the classroom.

Poetry Teachers
Activities for helping children write and appreciate poetry, including poetry theater and contests.

Poetry Walk
Designed for grades 6-8, this lesson develops skills in finding main ideas, thinking critically, and thinking creatively by asking students to determine a title for a poem.

Powerful Poetry
Designed for grades 5-8, this lesson asks students to read about and write poetry about storms. Page includes reading links, model poem, and descriptions of haiku, cinquain, and diamante poetry. Requires Adobe Acrobat Reader for access.

Practical Criticism from EdSitement
Students analyze the verbal devices through which poems make meaning, compare their personal interpretation of a poem with the personal interpretations of others, and develop standards of literary judgment.

Project #37: Poetry
A variety of activities and related links.

Explanation and examples of types of renga (Japanese poetry), additional links.

Responding to Young Adult Fiction through Writing Poetry: Trying to Understand a Mole
This article from the ALAN review discusses the riddle poem, found poem, character poem, poem for two voices, and repeat poster poem as methods students might use to respond to fiction. The article also offers an explanation of each form.

Rhyme Zone
In addition to a rhyming dictionary, this site provides links to online texts, interactive word quizzes, a reverse dictionary, and more.

Rhythm and Meter in English Poetry
Definitions and examples of the most common meters.

Rock Lyrics as Poetry
Students use song lyrics as an introduction to poetry with emphasis on metaphor, irony, and imagery.

Science Poetry Center
Students may post their own poetry here, the subject being anything having to do with Nature or Natural Science, including Life, Earth, Physical and Environmental Science topics.

The Sestina Page
Multiple explanations of this challenging poetic form and several examples.

Specific Concrete-Visual Poems on the WWW-InterNet
This page includes links to an extensive collection of concrete poems.

What am I? Teaching Poetry through Riddles
An introduction to poetry via metaphor, simile, metonymy, concrete imagery, and creativity. These extensive lessons address IRA and NCTE standards.

Writing Poetry Using Poems by Langston Hughes
Students analyze "Dream Deferred" and "Theme for English B," then use them as models for their own poetry.

And, also, these, from the "Teacher's Corner":

Lesson Plans

30 Days of Poetry Grades Various
This collection of poetry lessons was originally designed for high school students, but most of it can be easily adapted for intermediate students.

A Simile and Metaphor Sample Lesson Plan Grades 5-12
Difficult concepts to teach, this lesson provides you with all the tools you need including a ton of examples.

Alliteration Lesson Plans and Resources Grades Upper Elementary
Lists tongue twisters that illustrate the concept of alliteration followed by several lessons for students to complete.

Daily Poetry Reading Grade 4-6
Improve oral reading skills.
Submitted by: Ginny Thompson, a fifth grade teacher at Lincoln School in Appleton, Wisconsin.This idea was posted in the NEA's Weekly Works4Me Newsletter.

Famous Poems and Poets Grades Elementary
Students go on an online scavenger hunt to learn more about poets and the different styles of writing.

"Fill-in-the-Blank" Poetry Grades 6-12
In this activity, students write poems of their own without having to create an all-new structure or rhyme scheme.

Finding the Rhythm of Blues in Children's Poetry, Art, and Music Grades Any
Use a variety of means to introduce the blues to your students.

Friendly Poetry Grades K-2
In this activity children will compile a list of the things they look for in a friend and use that information to create a simple poem. Using a familiar topic may make poetry a little less daunting for some children.

Friendship Cinquains Grades Any
Students interview someone in their class and turn the information into a cinquain. This is a PDF file, so you will need Adobe Acrobat. (If you don't have it, get it free HERE.)

How to Make Pop-Ups
Learn how to make these fun cards that will add character to any poem.

How to Write a Cinquain Grades Any
Gives you a simple break down and a detailed breakdown of what goes in each line for this poem.

Jump into Poetry Grades Various
Three poetry exercises that deal with vocabulary, feelings and emotions, and the idea that poetry is everywhere.

Meter in Children's Poetry Grades Any
Learn how to teach your students about meter.

Music is Poetry Grades Middle School
This lesson was created to "turn students on" to poetry.

Native American Poetry Grades Middle School
This supplementary unit is part of an eighth grade, interdisciplinary Native American archaeology unit, but may be used in upper elementary or high school humanities or American history classes. It is a mini-study of free verse, sensory words used in Native American poetry, and paraphrasing.

Poet Research Project Grades Middle School
Students will have the chance to learn about various poets.

Poetry & Rhyme Grades K-2
This unit contains Favorite Links, Internet Activities, Lesson Plans, and Related Resources for Pre-K to 4th grade classes studying poetry and rhyme.

Poetry Resources
An extensive list of poetry projects for both reading and writing suitable for 5th grade up.

Poetry for the Elementary Classroom Grades Various
A curriculum unit that contains a narrative about the unit, several lessons, a student bibliography and a teacher bibliography.

Poetry of the Skies Grades Various
Students compose poems about things found in space. Use the links to see samples of poems and a list of possible poetry topics.

Poetry Plus II: An Integrated Unit Grade 3
This unit will introduce students to the genre of poetry and expose them to a variety of poetry types. This is a PDF file, so you will need Adobe Acrobat. (If you don't have it, get it free HERE.)

Poetry Reading Grade 4+
A great lesson to get your students started on poetry.
Submitted by: Jan Fogel, a literature teacher at De Pere High School in De Pere, Wisconsin. This idea was posted in the NEA's Weekly Works4Me Newsletter. Grades Various
Have you ever wondered how to get your students excited about poetry? Try teaching with humorous poetry! Here are some great lesson plans and tips on how to teach funny poetry in your classroom.

Rhyming Words Activities Grades K-2
Introduce students to rhyming and poetry through a variety of fun and interactive activities

Teacher's Guide for Old Elm Speaks: Tree Poems Grades Various
Help your students understand who is speaking in a poem adn who is being spoken to. Has a list of poems you can use.

Writing W Poems Grades 4-5
Using the book Animalia, students will create poems that are similiar to the author's based on the five W's. These can be complied into a class book.

Young Adult Poetry Grades Various
List of ideas to help jump-start your poetry curriculum. Can easily be adapted for grades 4-6.

Zoo Animal Poetry Grades K-3
After carefully observing and remembering details about the animals at the zoo, students work cooperatively in groups to create poems.

If you find something useful here, let me know!

Harry Potter, Poet

I stumbled across this at the TLS: it's good enough to quote at length:
From NB, July 29

A bibliomane friend from North of the border has sent us The Singer Passes, a collection of poems published in Glasgow in 1934. The author is Harry Potter. Greater Rowlingologists than we have no doubt pondered the question of how the bespectacled boy got his name, but none, so far as we know, has considered the likelihood that the original is an early twentieth-century poet from Scotland, the country in which J. K. Rowling now makes her home.

The poet Harry Potter was not completely obscure. The TLS reviewed both The Singer Passes and an earlier collection, In Thy Heart’s Garden (1919). Harry, said our reviewer, heard “the still small voice amidst the storm of life”, and was “in close and fervent touch with spiritual things”. Even we, who know as little about J. K. Rowling’s books as anyone, are minded to suspect that this sounds not a little like the youthful wizard who came into being in neighbouring Edinburgh. Like his namesake, the original Harry Potter has a tendency towards things mystical, even though the manner of expression is different:

O God, in Whom alone we have the gift
Of conscious life; of Whom our very need
For constant upward rise is born, heed
Our cry . . . .

In addition to this kind of thing, of which there is a a fair bit in The Singer Passes, the poet Potter wrote oddities such as “Ode to a Gas Meter”: “Thou scurvy knave, thou register of lies . . .”. He also made borrowings from exotica such as the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám, which he rendered into broad Scots, substituting for “a loaf of bread, a book of verse, a flask of wine and thou beside me” a more temperate menu: “A bowl o’ brose, a cosy fire-end sate, / O’ buttermilk a reamin’ jug, and fast / Within ma haun’ a weel-thumb’d ‘Rabbie Burns’”. Stop complaining that your kids won’t read anything but Harry Potter. Give them some Harry Potter to read instead.
Makes my day, folks. Pass it on.

NEH Seminar: Vendler's List o' Pleasures

This is the first week in a while that I haven't been teaching, and although I'd meant to spend it curled up in my Big Red Chair with a stack of books and a pitcher of iced coffee, I've ended up on the road, mostly: a prescription to drop off here; a package to mail there; a fat wad of overdue bills to pay off at too many libraries to mention. I'd also meant to join the Charles Olson conversation happening at Mark's blog (and, through him, elsewhere). The Maximus Poems was, itself, a good third of that book-stack. Ah, well. I did read the first poem in the Olson, "I, Maximus of Gloucester, to You," and will write some reactions to it soon. (How does anyone read vast stretches of this book quickly? Mark seems halfway through in a handful of days--I take ages just to process a couple of pages. Maybe, though, it's best read quickly, as Donald Davie says you should read the Cantos: in great, passionate gulps, without coming up for air. Hmmm... We'll see.

In any case, I've been meaning to post this handy Checklist o' Pleasures that I compiled for the NEH seminar from Vendler's Poems, Poets, Poetry textbook. It's from the third chapter in her book; strikes me that it could be dwelt on for some time, and built on, in manner of Woody Allen's dad in Love and Death. ("I have a piece of land... Someday I hope to build on it!" Pulling, then, a foot-square chunk of sod from his coat.)

The List, then, in the order she treats them:

Poems as Pleasure A Checklist from Vendler

--pleasure of recurrence and simple metrical pattern
--pleasures of complex metrical pattern, or of meter playing against rhythm --pleasures of match between sound and sense, rhythm and emotion or idea --in regular form, varying a pattern
--in free verse

--the simple pleasure of sounds that match, w/ various numbers of syllables --more complex pleasure of sameness in difference
--i.e., rhyming monosyllables with polysyllables
--i.e., rhyming different parts of speech
--i.e., rhyming words w/ some meaning-relation (same or opposite) --i.e., rhyming words that are spelled very differently, but w/ same sound

Alliteration, etc.
--same pleasures as in rhyme, but at the start of words

Stanza shape
--pleasure of recognizing some tradition (ballad stanza, ABBA quatrain, sonnet, couplet)
--pleasure of a tour-de-force: i.e., use of a really difficult stanza --pleasure of watching some existing form adapted or given a new twist --pleasure of “fit” between stanza form and inner structure of the poem

--pleasure of match between structure and content (form enacting content) --i.e., of well-used line breaks
--i.e., of torque on syntax or word order

--pleasure of self-referential puns (i.e., references to feet, to lines, to rooms / stanzas)
--pleasure of other sorts of puns
--pleasure of changes in diction or discourse, or echoes from diction to diction

--pleasure of watching a poem “open out” onto broader vistas of myth, theology, cultural reference
--pleasure of “getting it” being part of the poem’s audience (and thus possessing cultural capital?)
--pleasure of watching a seemingly incoherent poem reveal an underlying coherence

--pleasure of seeing ideas or argument compressed into memorable form
--pleasure of shifting kinds of imagery (visual, auditory, tactile, etc.; or from descriptive to metaphoric) in some order or pattern
--pleasure of having your own perceptions sharpened

--pleasure of the game of thrust & parry, or of watching the structure take shape --pleasure of poems answering other poems
--pleasure of watching old arguments presented from new angles of approach (new characters, scenes, speakers, moves, etc.)

--pleasure of the fit or contrast between situation and type of utterance (style, genre, tone
--pleasure of the poet’s subtlety in handling some painful or difficult emotional material (the pleasure of decorum)
--pleasure of unsubtlety, as a poet shifts from figurative or roundabout language to simplicity

--the pleasures of “what oft was thought but ne’er so well expressed”
--pleasures of “credible representation” of some powerful feeling, followed by the pleasures of assent: “yes, that’s how it feels; that’s how life is”
--pleasures of finding a vicarious voice: i.e., a poet who speaks for or to you

A New Language
--the pleasure of a poet not sounding like anyone else: the pleasure of distinctiveness

So: what's missing? Or, how can we put these to use? Maybe the Olson will be my test run.

(And if you've read this far, don't forget to sign up for the Say Something Wonderful Poetry Forum, over at Yahoo Groups!)