Which poet's works do you most enjoy teaching? Why? Are there any particular poems by this poet that you've found are especially meaningful to or popular with students?
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Oh my gosh. The Brownings, Frost, Whitman, Sandberg, Cummings, I could go on and on. One poet I love to teach partnered with his other writings is Edgar Allen Poe. Many students are familiar with his horror stories, but few no that he's a poet. That's sad considering he wrote some truly beautiful poems. They always think it's funny that the same mind which created "The Cask of Amontillado" wrote Annabelle Lee.
I'll go for Emily Dickinson. Some of her poems seem fairly easy to understand, and their themes are easy for students to "interpret." From there, we move on to poems that are more difficult, and then to some that are near impossible. We also have fun singing some of them to "The Yellow Rose of Texas" or "Amazing Grace." :)
I also like Frost for the same reasons, and his dramatic monologues/dialogues add another dimension to poetry. ("My Last Duchess" is fun for comparison.) I also lived in New England for years and have a good sense of his "place."
Whitman is fun because his poetry doesn't look like "it" and students enjoy the difference. Some of his themes are difficult, but with enough background I think they can make sense of it.
And, of course, this is only the beginning :)
I love to start out with Lawrence Ferlinghetti. He is a brilliant poet who uses liberal amounts of alliteration, metaphor, and allusion. It is deep enough for the brightest students, yet accessable enough for everyone. I then connent Ferlinghetti to the rest of the beat poets, and then back to their primary influence, Walt Whitman.
Whitman becomes the pivotal figure in my poetry unit. After him there is free verse, and before him there is meter (generally).
Another favorite author is Sylvia Plath. Her poems always generate lots of discussion. Her biography does, too!
I love to teach William Blake. He is often glossed over as a "proto-Romantic" figure en route to studying Wordsworth, Keats, Shelley, etc., but he has a social vision that students really tap into. Blake's verse is accessible and even childlike in poems like "The Lamb" and "The Tyger" and these two are a good way to build student confidence in their poetry explication skills.
After the easy ones, go on to teach other poems from Songs of Innocence and of Experience like the two versions of "The Chimney Sweeper" and "London." These are scathing attacks on middle-class complacency at the turn of the nineteenth century.
The other wonderful thing about Blake is that the poems in Songs are accompanied by gorgeous, hand-colored etchings by Blake himself. For him, poetry and visual art were intertwined.
Frost, Frost, Frost! I threaten bodily harm to any of my students who have negative things to say about him LOL (I'm JUST joking, by the way!).
I've found that most of the poems that we study the students are interested in and have lots to say about. The most popular are "Fire and Ice," "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening," "Design," "The Road Not Taken," and "Birches."
Frost has always been a favorite of mine because his style and knack for description and invoking nostalgia is magnificent. Also, many of his poems I find very peaceful and calming, which I enjoy.
Hmmm.."popular" and "meaningful" is a hard thing for me to parse, but here are some of the poets whom I've had the most success in teaching"
Walt Whitman, Allen Ginsberg, Robert Lowell, W.S. Merwin, T.S. Eliot, Elizabeth Bishop, Langston Hughes, Dorotohy Paker, Billy Collins, Lee Young-Lee, Sylvia Plath, Ann Sexton, Adrienne Rich, Samuel Coleridge, Randall Jarrell, Emily Dickinson, Ted Koozer, Charles Simic, Carl Sanburg, Gwendolyn Brooks.
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