A few days later, I started my own Poetry Notebook, and today, I assigned one to my students. I asked them why they didn't read much (or any) poetry, and they said things like, "it just takes so much effort; when I read, I want a story to take me somewhere. I don't want to have to work to figure out what it means; I just never know what it's supposed to be about; I prefer stories because I can relate to the characters." I understand their hesitations all while I lament their unnecessary resistance. They don't yet know that poetry can be funny as well as "deep," that there isn't just one right answer to "what a poem means," and that the things requiring the most effort are often the most worthwhile.
Today, I began by freeing them to see poetry in more ways than one: in spoken word or google poems; in haiku or sonnet; in found poetry or song lyrics. I showed them the spinning action in the Poetry Foundation app and watched as many of them pulled out their devices and immediately began playing with it. I invited them into the books on my shelves and shared with them my Poetry Notebook. And perhaps most importantly, I read to them. In one class, I read "Bread" by Richard Levine and maybe didn't do it justice because I don't know it well enough. In the other, I read E. E. Cummings' poem that begins
i thank you God for most this amazing dayand that one, I know. I know it intimately, musically. It makes a loop somewhere around my ribcage and thrums in my fingertips. And I think they heard it. I can't wait to see what they find.