Purpose of Poetry

Today I taught my students one possible way to analyze a poem. We read the title. We discussed what the poem might be about just from the title. We picked apart the literary devices. We evaluated its structure. We hypothesized about the theme and tone of the poem.

And the whole time, I thought about this poem by Billy Collins. Were we torturing a confession from the poem we analyzed as a class? I honestly don’t know.

Poetry, for me, should simply be experienced. Written or read, poetry should be loved. And when I come across a poem I don’t love? I find one I do, and settle in with it as if I’m relaxing into a chair that was custom made for my body.

I don’t want to kill poetry for my students. So tomorrow after we review some basic literary devices, I plan on letting them just read poems. Not analyzing the poetry they bring to class, but just reading and settling in with the poems.

But I’m really thinking about trying Poetry 180 with my students next year. Not picking apart each poem, but just starting each class reading a poem, just for the sake of reading it. Just to see what happens.

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