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Essays on Teaching
Poets on Teaching

The following essays are selected from Poets on Teaching: A Sourcebook, edited by Joshua Marie Wilkinson, a collection of 99 essays by poets and teachers, published by the University of Iowa Press.


On the Elasticity of the Sonnet and the Usefulness of Collective Experimentation 
by Laynie Browne
"Form is a container, a direction for words, a frame. Think of form as different ways to direct your lens of vision. Something to try on, walk into, a temporary dwelling..."

The 95ó Skool  
by Joshua Clover and Juliana Spahr
"Twelve people sitting around a table talking about poems is not going to ruin poetry...This isn't an endorsement of the writing workshop as it is currently taught; but in imagining how it might be done better..."

The Poetry of Superstition and Supposition  
by Aimee Nezhukumatathil
"It's as if the reader and speaker shared a knowing wink: a reader's loneliness solved, even if it is for just one moment..."

Some Thoughts on Teaching Poetry to Spoken Word Artists  
by Barbara Jane Reyes
"Think about it: before reading and writing were widely practiced in any society, communities converged as tellers or listeners of talkstory, which served as both entertainment and education..."

Sidelong and Uncodifiable 
by Eleni SikÚlian˛s
"What seems important to me, more and more, is establishing a collective, collaborative space in which we can explore some of the edges of our interior conditions..."

Unlearning to Write 
by Ron Silliman
"I start with the actual physics of writing. How do they do it? On a computer? In a notebook? On a legal tablet? Whatever it might be. I ask them to change thiss..."

Making the Case for Asian American Poetry 
by Timothy Yu
"Rather than adopting a defensive position in which we read a few token poems that do the same kind of narrative work that stories and novels do, we should expose students to the most exciting and exploratory work..."

Don't Paraphrase  
by Matthew Zapruder
"Often we are taught to read poems as if they were a kind of literary subspecies of riddles, with a hidden meaning we must tease out by looking for what the poem is actually saying..."

Featured Essays

Gimmicks
by Ron Padgett
"There are intelligent people who attack the use of gimmicks or devices in teaching imaginative writing.... Were there a School of Gimmicks, its members might retort that the Defenders of Meaningfulness tend to be boring creeps who confuse self-expression with value."

The Accomplished and the Insufficient
by Thom Ward
"Many adults put aside reading poetry once they've left high school. For them contemporary verse seems cryptic and vague, some sort of elitist-language labyrinth."

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Poetry
by Bill Zavatsky
"When all the mystery is crushed out of a poem...when it has grown harmless in the collection book of the school text, the poem will have attained the state of perfect meaning which is death."

Can Poets Teach?: On Writers Teaching Writing
by Joan Houlihan
"By abandoning the hard work of evaluation, the poetry subculture demeans its own art."

How I Teach Poetry in the Schools
by Jack Collom
"When the teacher writes along with the student, or simply listens alertly, this participation catalyzes the whole room."

Teaching Poetry: Accurate Songs, or Thinking-in-Poetry
by Eleanor Cook
"I like to show how all good poetry requires thinking. This means combating several stereotypes: first, the stereotype where thinking is what you do in mathematics"

Rose, Where Did You Get That Red?
by Kenneth Koch
An excerpt from Koch's landmark book about teaching poetry and writing to children, in which he discusses exercises, assignments, outcomes, and offers examples of student writing.

The Read-Aloud Handbook 
by Jim Trelease
An excerpt from Trelease's book in which he examines "what's right or wrong with poetry" in school curriculums.

A Treasury of Read-Alouds: Poetry for Children 
by Jim Trelease
A list of books and anthologies of poetry to read with children, including favorites by Shel Silverstein, and Jack Prelutsky, alongside classics by Robert W. Service and Ernest L. Thayer.

Serious Play: Reading Poetry with Children
"Poetry is the liveliest use of language, and nobody knows more instinctively how to take delight in that playfulness than children."

Poetry Glossary
What's the difference between denotation and connotation? The meaning of the word synesthesia? How does a couplet become a heroic couplet? The answers to these and a great many other questions can be found in our glossary. Great for writers, students, and teachers.

Forms & Techniques
Ever wonder how many lines are in a sestina? How many syllables are in a haiku? How to properly use anaphora? Browse through articles about poetric forms and techniques. From abecedarian to villanelle, these essays are great for reference or for sharpening your writing skills.

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