Can a poem be wrong? And other inspiration for #NationalPoetryMonth

I never call myself a poet, but I am in love with words.

I wrote this beside a poem in my notebook one day (I wish I could remember the poem):

Poetry is spiritual. Shouldn’t it be? It’s language laced in love and longing; purpose — and yes, peace. Sometimes. It’s also anger, anguish, sorrow, and despair. Poetry is people trying to find a place. It’s help in healing. It’s the tangle and torment of humanity shouting up and calling out. “Speak your truth.” the voices say. I’ll just play with speaking mine in verse.

Is that a poem? If I called myself a poet, I’d probably say yes. But I don’t, so I won’t.

I am like the kid too afraid to write. Too afraid to be wrong.

Can a poem be wrong?

I remember a several years ago when I first began teaching. I questioned myself a lot back then, and I had a knee-knocking fear of teaching poetry. Thinking to give myself an edge, I picked up the poetry binder the teacher before me had used. It screamed Keats and the Romantics. (Please don’t jump all over me if you revel in this era.) I’m sure the binder had other poets and other poems. I just remember how wrong it felt — how wrong I felt — trying to teach poems I didn’t love in a way my students and I didn’t love. We analyzed and analyzed. Never wrote beside a single one. I fear I passed the baton, my fear and even dislike of poetry, to my students.

That was wrong.

Thankfully, I learned to run toward the pain. I got better at teaching young people instead of teaching poetry. I learned to do more than have my students bring in their favorite song lyrics. I bought novels in verse and poetry anthologies. I read for pleasure. I wrote to discover, to wonder, to enjoy. I learned to love poets who made me think and feel and to experience language like I never had before. I shared all of this with my students.

It took me years to overcome my fear of poetry. How silly and how sad.

So maybe you are like the old me — stuck in a rut or an old binder. Maybe you dread all the talk of poetry in April because you’re stressed about test prep or whatever. Maybe you just want a little spring in your step. That’s what I now think poetry is — a pretty powerful spring.

Whether you love poetry, or not, here’s a little inspiration to get your bounce on:

 

Sometimes it’s fun to look up words we already know. Today I looked up poet.

poet

Don’t you just love the second definition? I’m thinking superhero with a pen.

 

Amy Rasmussen began writing love poems in 6th grade about her boyfriend Frankie, but somewhere along the way of life, she lost her love of poetry. She’s since read Good Poems and all the poetry of Billy Collins. Aimless Love is her favorite. She’s always on the lookout for new poems to write beside. This is a new favorite. She’s not sure why. Follow Amy on Twitter @amyrass 

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6 thoughts on “Can a poem be wrong? And other inspiration for #NationalPoetryMonth

  1. J.R. Solonche April 11, 2019 at 1:30 pm Reply

    Yes. In fact, most poems are wrong, the 99.99% of poems that do not survive the test of time.

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  2. […] not even the poetry part I’m finding difficult, which is surprising. Deciding on an idea and then sticking to it has wrecked me for eight straight days. And now […]

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  3. Melanie Beisert March 28, 2019 at 7:31 pm Reply

    I smiled at the second definition before seeing your thoughts. :). I absolutely LOVE poetry. I wrote poetry when I was a teen inspired by the teen magazines of the time. I think I even submitted a few in their contest. I vividly remember pouring over their words and mine. In today’s world of diverse literature, I can’t imagine it being hard for each and every student to find themselves in a poem of today or if the past. I hope all teachers spring into poetry this April and every month after. Poetry should live in every week/day we teach.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. finkgirl March 27, 2019 at 9:22 pm Reply

    Thank you for the mention of NCTE Verse!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Tonya Moreland March 26, 2019 at 10:07 pm Reply

    I love introducing students to novels in verse! I go to our public library and check out over 100 of them to offer as a buffet for my students. They find a new perspective of reading and read more than one novel, enjoying every minute!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Amy Rasmussen April 8, 2019 at 11:04 pm Reply

      Tonya, I am so with you on introducing students to novels in verse. I’ve had huge success getting high school students who had never finished a book (gasp) to read by inviting them to read verse novels. I love your idea of a buffet of over 100. I’d love that many in my classroom library! Thanks for the comment.

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