How to Bring Poetry to Life in Your Classroom
Overcoming students’ prejudices against poetry can be one of the most difficult challenges a literature teacher faces. Fortunately, The Poetry Archive has the tools you need to break the anti-poetry frame of mind.
The Poetry Archive is a collection of streaming audio recordings of poets reading their own poems, and in some cases commenting on them.
“The Poetry Archive exists to help make poetry accessible, relevant and enjoyable to a wide audience. It came into being as a result of a meeting, in a recording studio, between Andrew Motion, soon after he became U.K. Poet Laureate in 1999, and the recording producer, Richard Carrington. They agreed about how enjoyable and illuminating it is to hear poets reading their work and about how regrettable it was that, even in the recent past, many important poets had not been properly recorded.”
The president of the archive is Nobel Prize winner Seamus Heaney, who reads some of his own poems, such as “St. Kevin and the Blackbird.” The archive even features newly-named U.S. poet-laureate Charles Simic reading “In the Library” and others.
There’s something magical about poets reading their own words. Listening to a poet read his or her own words helps to make poetry more accessible and more personable.
In To Kill a Mockingbird, Scout Finch finally overcame her fear of Boo Radley by meeting him face to face. Students can overcome their fear of poetry by meeting poets in The Poetry Archive. The archive puts a personality to the words, and helps students to break free of the myth that poetry is boring, “fluffy” and remote.
There are some real gems in the archive:
- Billy Collins reading “Sonnet.” This is a very funny poem to use when teaching your students the sonnet form.
- Langston Hughes reading “The Negro Speaks of Rivers.” As Monica Ali says of the recording, Hughes’ voice “conveys both strength and emotion and makes the poem all the more moving. When you hear him say, ‘my soul has grown deep like the rivers’ you find a little catch in your throat.”
- Tennyson reading “The Charge of the Light Brigade.” Who knew a recording of Tennyson even existed?
- T.S. Eliot reading “Journey of the Magi.” I never thought I would hear T.S. Eliot reading one of his own poems. He also reads “The Waste Land” in its entirety.
- Margaret Atwood reading “Siren Song.” A great companion piece to The Odyssey.
The Poetry Archive is a must-see web site for every literature teacher.