Losing two consecutive weeks of teaching, the first due to the 8th grade's slam poet guest speaker and this last week due to our Fall break, we lost a lot of our curriculum. We had planned to workshop the last assignment (writing a metered quatrain with a rhyme scheme) and then to assign a sonnet to synthesize our metrical teaching. However, we had to adapt to time, so today we work-shopped the quatrains as planned and moved directly into free verse. Our last week of teaching poetry is next week, and we assigned twenty lines of free verse OR the sonnet, having briefly taught the structures and ideas of this form. We are also allowing those twenty lines of free verse to be broken essentially into as many poems as the students decide. Our hope is that they will create as many works as they can with this assignment, and maybe even feel as though they could write more.
Today we taught five poems to each class. "A Mayan Astronomer in Hell's Kitchen" by Martin Espada, "Thin Ice" by Gary Snider, "perfect white teeth" by Charles Bukowski, and "Sure Signs" and "A Summer Night" by Ted Kooser. While we talked a lot about the freedom of free verse, I think we did our best to impart the idea that free verse poems usually have a structure of meaning, although they don't adhere to any strict form. Our first class did a good job work-shopping each other's work, though we only got through several poems before we went into free verse. Both classes did a good job of analyzing the poems we taught, though things were smoother in the first class. In the second class, instead of work-shopping, some of the students read poems they had written in other classes after hearing our guest speaker two weeks ago. These poems were very good; one of the obstacles I found in work-shop was critiquing these poems because they were so emotionally loaded. Several of the students were moved to tears reading them and reading to each other. Aidan and I gave as much structural input as we thought was appropriate, but being slam poems and being extremely close to the students, we withheld a lot of the teaching here, and I think for the better because the accomplishment the students felt at writing something moving inspired them, I think, to work harder for the rest of the class.