Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Oh, Back to School, Back to School

What is it with the controversy about teaching and poetry lately? It is because the spring semester is about to begin? Or, perhaps, because National Poetry Month is a mere three months away? Whatever the case may be, everyone's got their panties in a bunch about poetry...and poets...in schools.

According to this article in the Guardian, Former poet laureate Sir Andrew Motion (what a great name, right?) thinks that poetry is not being taught adequately in the schools. Too much emphasis on song lyrics and child-centric writers like Roald Dahl, and not enough substantive work. Gotta agree with you there, Motion. In fact, you've made a great argument for academic poets here...who else is going to push Sharon Olds and Galway Kinnell down the little ones' throats? During my brief stint in the wonderful world of middle school, I did my best to do just that, and they loved it...at least, I think they did. I had fun at any rate. And I can say with utmost certainty that they don't get nearly the amount of rigor now from their poetry units.

Meanwhile, Zyzzyva's editor Howard Junker had an interesting post on his blog last week in which he postulated what academia would be like for some very famous writers. Apparently, Dickinson and Kafka wouldn't make the cut. Again, I gotta agree with Howard on his implied point...my writing did suffer when I was immersed in teacher-student-school-land.

It seems to boil down to an either/or matter: provide experts to plant a serious love of poetry and literature in students, or keep the artists out of the classroom to save the art. But is it really that simple? What do readers, writers, teachers, students think? Where do you fall in this debate?

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