Teaching honors English, part 2I've decided to put together my own textbook for my honors class this fall. I've chosen to teach genres: short story, drama, novel, poetry. I'm limited by district...

Teaching honors English, part 2

I've decided to put together my own textbook for my honors class this fall. I've chosen to teach genres: short story, drama, novel, poetry. I'm limited by district requirements as to which plays and novels I can teach; I have to teach Antigone, A Doll's House, Julius Caesar, A Separate Peace, and The Jungle. However, there  are no restrictions on short stories and poetry.

I've put together what I think is a good group of stories: A Rose for Emily, Eveline, Desiree's Baby, The Drover, etc.

I need help with poetry. Can you suggest poets/poetry suitable for 10th graders? I know I could stick with all the famous ones, but I'd like to add some contemporary poets into the mix. What do you think?

Expert Answers
timbrady eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I don't think the poet is as important as the poetry ... so I wouldn't look at authors ... I'd look for poems.  I have always had success with the "simpler" poems that had issues that are universal but which teenagers can resonate with ... and these are not always poems that are about teenages, just about issues that they can care about.  If there any authors that seem to have these poems, I always had luck with Frost (did a lot of teaching on the east coast), Dickinson (kids seem to appreciate the wierd part of her), Masters, Ginsberg/Ferlingetti, Eliot (believe it or not), Whitman (more of the wierd?),Cummings, Williams, Hughes, Jarrell, Amy Lowell, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Poe, Arnold, and Sandburg.  There are many others, but my goal is not to introduce the students to any eras, types, ethnic groups, but to pick poems they may actually LIKE.  I believe that students must like the form if they are ever going to pursue it on their own.  That why there's no Sylvia Plath or Robert Lowell (as samples of poems that I do not judge, but suspect that younger students would not enjoy).  Not enough room to suggest individual poems :)  Good luck with your project!

engtchr5 eNotes educator| Certified Educator
Depending on where you are, some regional poets could especially supplement your lessons: Billy Collins, poet laureate, writes from a very New York perspective, while Rodney Jones writes poems that relate the Southern experience particularly well. Peter Meinke, a St. Petersburg (FL) resident, has a very casual Floridian style, while canon members such as Frost continue to be hits with New England teachers and students alike. If I were teaching in inner city Harlem, I would definitely introduce Robert Hayden and Langston Hughes, then supplement them with modern-day African-American poets like Angelou and Brooks. And while region or race should not dictate the entirety of your poetry selections, students seem to relate better to those who have experienced life from their perspective.
jilllessa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One thought:  the famous or classic poets are remembered and read because they are good.  Elizabeth Bishop is one of my favorites which has not been mentioned.  Since these are honor students, I would give them a fairly long list of poets and send them off on their own to read them, choosing a selection (one or more) that they like and bringing it back to share with the class.  You do not need to make them write on the poem(s) they like, just have them bring them in to share.  This way they get more ownership in what they are reading and just maybe some of them will begin to enjoy reading poetry on their own. 

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Why don't you set them loose on internet poetry sites and anthologies and have them create their own anthology?  I love to teach poetry by just throwing my favorite poems on one theme together.  For example, nature, love, death, loss or everyday life.  Then we read a variety of different poems, including some that seem to hard and some that seem too easy.  We discuss them, and students choose some of their own to add.  It really exposes them to a variety of poetry!

ask996 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Dorothy Parker has some wonderfully funny poems. Billy Collins is another you might consider. The Poetry 180 resource is wonderful, as is Poetry Outloud. If you participate in Poetry outloud, you get some small, but free anthologies, and these always have some excellent poems. It might be a nice resource for exploring other poets. Good luck.

kwoo1213 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

How about some Stevie Smith and Mark Strand?  Ted Hughes? William Carlos Williams (famous, but has some lesser-known poems)?  N. Scott Momaday?  Craig Raine? 

Another idea is to use songwriters as poets, like Bob Dylan, Jim Morrison (could be if-fy for 10th graders!), Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez, etc.

sullymonster eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Modern poets...e.e. cummings is always a big hit.  John Ashberry and Robert Frost.  Maya Angelous and Adrienne Rich. For an honors class at that age, and considering the other literature, I'd really consider some of the metaphysical poets.

kwoo1213 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I've actually found my students love Plath because of the bizarre quality of her poems, but I teach in college, so my students are 18 and up. 

dorisjac | Student

There's the newer anthology of poems called Poetry 180. Also maybe consider having your students take part in the Poetry Out Loud recitations competition, which would required students to delve deeply into select published poems. Check out the website: www.poetryoutloud.org