But I Hate Poetry!How many times I've heard this from students, and sadly, from teachers as well. I once even overheard a teacher saying to his class, "I don't like this either, but we have to...

But I Hate Poetry!

How many times I've heard this from students, and sadly, from teachers as well. I once even overheard a teacher saying to his class, "I don't like this either, but we have to do it so let's just get through it as quickly as possible, okay?"  (It was Chaucer, btw.)

Why do you think this resistance exists and what can we do to overcome the attitude? 

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kwoo1213's profile pic

kwoo1213 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

Posted on

I am a student from the UK studying English Language and Literature. My mother is a high-school English teacher and so I was raised in a fairly literary environment. I can't get enough of novels, short stories, essays; I love reading prose... but I f**king HATE poetry!

I hate its artificiality. I hate the fact that it DEMANDS one's analytical attention and that there is no way of gleaning pleasure from it without picking it apart like some smug cryptic crossword clue. And more than anything I hate the fact that, for others, poety seems to speak directly to their souls, setting hearts and minds on fire, while it leaves me sitting here, uninspired, empty and alienated.

It tortured me because I really do WANT to feel what you feel when you read poetry, but I can't. I think I'm incapable of it. Literally dozens of people have tried to turn me on to it - starting with my mother, then various teachers and friend, and now my girlfriend - but everyone, sadly, has failed. Maybe it has something to do with that fact that I have no sense of rhythm, or perhaps that particular branch of abstract thought just never developed in my brain.

If a person can be tone-deaf, do you think it's possible to be "poetry-blind"? 

  No, I do not think it is possible to be "poetry-blind."  At this point, it appears to be all "in your head," so to speak.  You are predisposed to hate it now no matter what because you have already convinced yourself that you cannot get anything out of it and that it is hopeless to read it.  The mind is a very powerful force and because you already have this type of aversion to it, it will be difficult to ever get anything out of it.

Try to open your mind and realize that NO ONE "gets" all poetry.  Not all poetry must be picked apart and analyzed, either, believe it or not.  Some poems are meant to be enjoyed for what is says literally; for example, William Carlos Williams wrote a poem about taking his wife's plum from the refrigerator and eating it.  She had to find out it was gone instead of him telling her about it before he found it.  It is a very simple poem about nothing more than the narrator offering his apologies for taking his wife's plum out of the refrigerator and eating it without telling her first or asking her if this was "ok."

I hope that you can find a way to open your mind and not try so hard. :)  It might take simply an open mind and relaxation to connect with more poetry!

kwoo1213's profile pic

kwoo1213 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

Posted on

I think many students have this mentality: "I don't understand it; therefore, I hate it" LOL.  Because students don't understand that poetry MUST be read differently than prose, they find poetry difficult to comprehend.  In addition, poetry has no set form and can be written in so many different ways. It is much more "open" than prose; therefore, many students have a problem with poetry due to it being so "unstructured" in many ways. 

To combat the bad attitudes that students bring into the poetry experience, I always being my poetry unit in my college classrooms by explaining in detail HOW a poem should be read.  I usually spend one class period on this and it seems to help a bit.  I also try to begin the poetry unit with poems that are fairly simple to understand.  Throughout the unit, I mix in humorous poems with serious ones, short ones with longer ones, etc., so students are always on their toes and so they do not get bored easily. 

jamie-wheeler's profile pic

Jamie Wheeler | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted on

Completey agree, Jen.  Poetry is meant to be heard.  It's great to know the mechanics eventually, but it is the words, the meaning they convey, which are of ultimate importance. 

Teaching students to read well is of utmost importance when teaching poetry.  I almost always make students first read aloud Gwendolyn Brooks' poem, "We Real Cool."  I don't comment on their cadence.  I simply ask 2-3 student to read it as they interpret the lines.  Then I have them listen to Brooks' recording.  For the more sensitive among them, I see a metaphysical blow to the soul.  For others, the catching of wick to flame. 

Read aloud.  This is my best advice.  The hunger for language is real;  the "fear" of poetry quelled for many when the inhibitions are quieted.  One of my favorite things to do is to take an entire class outdoors on a pleasant day.  I ask them the day before, if possible, to simply choose a poem from an anthology that they enjoy.  No justification, only, " I like this one."

Then we read aloud together, and let the poem "breathe."  No analysis, no comment.  If students want to engage it on a deeper level, we do.  If not, we move on. 

 

 

 

malibrarian's profile pic

malibrarian | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted on

As I said in a previous post...

Wasting a class' time just analyzing the rhyme scheme and meter to the point that they're nodding off and wishing they were having root canal work instead of sitting in your class is very, very sad.  It would be the same thing if I assigned "King Lear" and said cite every example of iambic pentameter in the play - there are 182 and you have to find them all!!!  AACCCCKKKK!

I'm NOT saying the mechanics aren't important.  I am saying that most kids are not going to get hooked on poetry if that is the only approach the teacher uses to teach poetry.

It's fun to listen to poems being read aloud - and definitely possible to find audio tapes (CDs - yes, I'm old), but also fun to record your students reading poetry that appeals to them aloud.  Save it for future classes to listen to and appreciate.  Poetry can be fun! :)

amy-lepore's profile pic

amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

I have a t-shirt that a friend bought me that says in old English lettering:

Beowulf!  Because Chaucer is too easy. 

Kids don't like poetry because teachers don't teach them that the entire line has to be digested to get the point.  All of them read the words on the line as they see it...they don't get that sometimes you have to actually read until you get to a period or a semicolon to get the whole idea.  I wouldn't like it either in fragmented bits.

Set it to music, and kids like poetry.  That's all songs are...get on their level, and how can they NOT like Beowulf, Chaucer, and Shakespeare?

linda-allen's profile pic

linda-allen | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted on

Finally, a poetry topic I can write about. Get your rotten tomatoes ready: I'm one of those heretical teachers who hates poetry. Wait! Wait! I don't hate it as a genre. I hate it as an excuse for somebody to put smarmy nonsense down on a page. How many times when we ask students to write poetry do we get "I'm going to kill myself because he doesn't love me" drivel?

Honestly, besides the smarmy nature of teenage poetry, I think what kills my enjoyment of poetry is having to break it down into dactyls and hexameters and troches and objective correlatives and.......

Why can't we appreciate poetry for what the poet says and not for how he or she says it? It's ok to point out the poet's brilliance in being able to write something great according to a preset formula, such as a sonnet. But is all the stuff I mentioned above necessary for high students to learn? Do we turn them off by making poetry reading a chore instead something pleasurable? That's sure what happened to me.

Here's some smarm for you:

A bird came down the walk

He did not know I saw

He bit an angle worm in half

and ate the fellow raw.

By Emily Dickinson for goodness sake!

By the way, I love Chaucer and Shakespeare. For some reason, they don't count as poetry to me.

jlcannad's profile pic

jlcannad | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Assistant Educator

Posted on

AAACCCK.  How can you not love Chaucer!!  My kids just wrote a paragraph on the Pardoner and whether his ranting "sermon" was satire or not based on the number of logical fallacies he used (and yes, I made them label the fallacies).  But I think the key is to ignore the format as much as possible when you're dealing with poetry-resistant kids and just focus on the content.  The poetry of Brian Turner goes over great with my regular students because his work describes a moment or tells a story... they don't have to get hip-deep in metaphor to really feel the gut-level kick of a stunning image.  Then, once students have learned to enjoy the poem, you can introduce them to deeper and deeper levels.

Of course, my accelerateds I drop into the deep end of the pool, but they generally like poetry when they come to me because they were raised on Shel Silverstein (which is why they're accelerated).

gprrecords's profile pic

gprrecords | eNotes Newbie

Posted on

I'm trying to help a bit. I'm a record producer and just produced POETIC LICENSE: 100 POEMS/100 PERFORMERS. I got wonderful actors--Catherine Zeta-Jones, Cynthia Nixon, Patti LuPone, Jason Alexander, etc. to read their favorite poems. It's rather amazing! A 3 CD set. It comes out for National Poetry Month, April2. Here's some press: http://www.broadwayworld.com/article/LuPone_ZetaJones_Henderson_Alexander_et_al_Featured_on_New_CD_Poetic_License_20100302

You can pre order on amazon. Or through our website: gprrecords.com

 

Made for people who hate it! Even our engineers were saying "Hell, I never like this before, but this is gorgeous!"

 

joe2222's profile pic

joe2222 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted on

"Why do you think this resistance exists and what can we do to overcome the attitude?"

You can't be serious... You must really be in a "hey, let's ask what we think is an educated question about some obscure topic and revel in our own intellectually-inspired group of cronies" mood.

Poetry is boring. It's just that simple.

krishna-agrawala's profile pic

krishna-agrawala | College Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

Posted on

I am not very fond of poetry, but definitely there are many compositions that I like and enjoy very much.

I am not very much in favour of describing someones dislike or indifference to a particular poem or even most of the poems as "resistance".

It is quite possible that a person is not quite able to understand or appreciate a point being made or an emotion being expressed. In such cases, it is fine to explain the poem as best as you can, and hope that the person will then be able to enjoy it. But to say that you want to overcome someones resistance to poetry gives the impression of an adversarial situation.

krakenslayer's profile pic

krakenslayer | Student | eNotes Newbie

Posted on

I am a student from the UK studying English Language and Literature. My mother is a high-school English teacher and so I was raised in a fairly literary environment. I can't get enough of novels, short stories, essays; I love reading prose... but I f**king HATE poetry!

I hate its artificiality. I hate the fact that it DEMANDS one's analytical attention and that there is no way of gleaning pleasure from it without picking it apart like some smug cryptic crossword clue. And more than anything I hate the fact that, for others, poety seems to speak directly to their souls, setting hearts and minds on fire, while it leaves me sitting here, uninspired, empty and alienated.

It tortured me because I really do WANT to feel what you feel when you read poetry, but I can't. I think I'm incapable of it. Literally dozens of people have tried to turn me on to it - starting with my mother, then various teachers and friend, and now my girlfriend - but everyone, sadly, has failed. Maybe it has something to do with that fact that I have no sense of rhythm, or perhaps that particular branch of abstract thought just never developed in my brain.

If a person can be tone-deaf, do you think it's possible to be "poetry-blind"? 

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