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« Why I Can't Be A Beatnik Poet (by Laura Orem) | Main | Good-bye, Phoebe Snow (1950-2011) »

April 25, 2011


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I loved doing this back in the day when I taught poetry at community college. It felt like real teaching in the purest sense - bringing something to someone they could carry within them forever. Didn't work with every student, but there was always someone for whom the fire was lit. And I was always moved by how supportive the students were of each other's efforts at recitation. It was great.

And how lucky your students are to have you as their teacher!

Hi Laura. I'm heartened to learn that poetry recitation as part of the curriculum hasn't died out. And you're so right about it lighting a fire for some students. I gave my class the choice of doing another recitation or a paper based on a close read of Stephen Dunn's poem, "Sweetness." About a third of the class chose another recitation, and of that third, a few recited 15 to 20 lines. We had two unbelievable moments-- one when a student recited Lady MacBeth's speech, and other who delivered Shakespeare's "My mistress' eyes" with such force that many of us had tears in our eyes.

One thing that is very cool is when you can tell the student speaking the poem really feels it in his or her bones. A while back, I wrote a post about the late Roland Flint and an exercise he led a group of people through to get a poem by heart - and he was very clear that there is a difference between getting it by heart and memorizing it. Here's the link if anyone is interested:

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I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark

from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman

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