Poetry and Social Media have both had their share of bad raps.
The poetry of our (collective) past was often presented as something that was only available to those chosen few who may or may not find the many levels of hidden meanings tucked in between the lines. Every time I bring poetry to my teachers, there is a group squirm in the room as everyone shifts in their seats and falls back into their past experiences with poetry.
Poetry was not available and many hold fast to the belief that it still isn’t. But thanks to modern day poets such as Billy Collins, Mary Oliver and even those of old such as e.e. cummings, poetry can be accessible to all. With a little patience and practice some even come to enjoy poetry.
We just need to shift out of our old habit of thinking we “won’t get it” and realize that what we take from the poem is enough. It may just be the sound of the words or how they are arranged; it may be a line that strikes the soul, or an adverse reaction to an image. Whatever it is, it is for us. Poetry can move people to their own “edges” if you will, asking them to work and think a little bit more and little bit harder, what does that mean?
“Poetry is a deal of joy and pain and wonder, with a dash of the dictionary.” Khalil Gibran
Social Media has also gotten a bad rap, especially when we are having conversations about our youth. And while we might be concerned about the growing evolutionary thumbs of this next generation and their inability to communicate face to face without a device are worthy concerns, there is the upside to this wonderful world of technology.
One is the meeting of poetry and social media I encountered these past couple of weeks as poetry swept it’s way onto Facebook and flooded my feed with fabulous poets and poetry. The way it worked was simple. Read a poem posted by a friend and if you liked that poem they would send you a poet and you in turn posted a poem by that assigned poet.
I can only wonder how many hits poetry.org and other such sites got this poetry month. It was a treat to go onto Facebook wondering what poem or poet you would see next. It was also interesting to see what new poets might come up. And even if the poem was one I knew, it was nice to be revisited by old favorites. Some even went so far as to research their assigned poet, posting photos and biographical information as well as a poem. There were side conversations about how many poets some knew and how thrilled others were to be introduced to new poets. Others felt “out of their league” but quickly immersed themselves in finding the perfect poem. Some began the process of identification as one who likes and dare I even say might consider writing poetry.
I can’t tell you how many poems I added to my poetry folder for future teaching! There was a crazy wonderful poetry community created through social media with people across the country that never would have been possible without social media. It was, if I may say so myself, pretty damn cool!
And then we come to the Common Core where poetry is not mentioned, named or listed in any categories in the entire document. And while the intent was not to eliminate poetry, that is the interpretation of many. Schools are reading this document as a curriculum even when it clearly states that it is NOT! But the subtle, or not so subtle message underlying the omission of poetry is that what is not listed will not be tested; therefore precious time will not be wasted teaching it. Schools without Shel Silvserstien, Prelutsky, Roald Dahl, A.A. Milne, and Sharon Creech will be very sad places.
While I realize you have all heard me rant and rave on about the CCSS nation wide hold on education, I do not believe I have given it’s history justice and so I direct you here to a link where Diane Ravitch lays out the history of the Common Core and it’s daunting predecessors.
I believe this history gives context to why we are where we are and how incredibly insipid it is. I believe anyone who has any stock in the public educational system needs to read this. I would like to see this article go viral. The more we know the more we can begin to understand what is at stake.
And so I leave you with my assigned poet (by the fabulous Children’s poet, Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, who you must check out at this link) and the words of ee cummings: enjoy, savor and just take it in for what it is, let it linger on your tongue for the sweetness that it is and nothing more or less.
E. E. Cummings (1894 – 1962)
I Will Wade Out
i will wade out
till my thighs are steeped in burning flowers
I will take the sun in my mouth
and leap into the ripe air
with closed eyes
to dash against darkness
in the sleeping curves of my body
Shall enter fingers of smooth mastery
with chasteness of sea-girls
Will i complete the mystery
of my flesh
I will rise
After a thousand years
And set my teeth in the silver of the moon
And as the world goes, I read this post to my daughter, Emma and she reminded me that her choir in High School sang this poem as composed by Eric Whitacre. Love the connections! And while we don’t have a recording of her choir, here is a youtube link to another choir singing it. Glorious!