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The Art of Poetry

“There has never been a civilization without poetry. From the beginning of time, people have sought to turn their thoughts, feelings, and stories into memorable speech to share with others. Using language, the poet preserves something precious in the world by allowing us to live next to her, to see what she sees, to enter the experience she has built for us with her words and attention to the moment. Poetry acknowledges something deep within our nature – an urge to name, say, sing, grieve, praise, out of our solitariness, to another person. It makes words into a material thing, hard and solid as a table, dense with significance.” —from the Introduction

The Art of Poetry is an excellent middle school or high school elective course that teaches how to read a poem closely and absorb its beauty, emphasizing reading poetry for pleasure. This curriculum presents poetry as a form of literary expression that has prevailed throughout the ages, and that remains relevant to contemporary culture, with numerous applications to daily life.

“While we think of poetry as the best words in the best order, we sometimes forget how important its poetic or metaphoric thinking is to various subjects such as writing, speaking, business, and science.” The Art of Poetry is a great resource for students who are more interested in reading poetry than writing it, although this course can certainly be used as a jumping off point for creative writing.

A huge part of appreciating poetry has to do with simply spending time with poems and reading them aloud. If you already enjoy poetry, The Art of Poetry is perfect for you! By learning more details about the history, structure, and figurative language of poems, your appreciation will be taken to a deeper level. But if you have ever felt afraid of, mystified by, or unable to comprehend the significance of poetry, this book will lead you step by step to an understanding and love of this branch of literature.

The Art of Poetry teaches the practice of reading a poem carefully for comprehension. Not only does the course focus upon interpretation but also upon a variety of structures, devices, and themes which differentiate one type of poetry from another. It introduces students to the elements of poetry such as imagery, metaphor, symbols, tone, and the many forms that can make a poem, from sonnet to free verse. Real poems are used to illustrate the concepts, and the author provides detailed analyses for some of them. Biographies of fifty-one poets are included along with the historical background of the poems. An index of authors and titles is also included.

In the belief that practice is the best way to learn, this book is rich with exercises and activities. Even though the purpose of this curriculum is not for students to write their own poetry, it provides a great foundation for those who wish to do so. There are plenty of assignments to choose from, such as invention of personal poetry within the style being studied, essays, recitations, and artistic interpretations. At the end of the book an “Application” section has ideas for long-term poetry projects such as starting a poetry club, holding a poetry workshop, hosting a poetry slam, keeping a poetry journal or a notebook of favorite poems, etc.

The Art of Poetry includes many of the most important poems in the history of American and British poetry. However, the book isn’t meant to be a collection of poems to browse through, but rather to be taken as a series of poetry lessons to study in order by topic. It should be pointed out, though, while poems that provide good examples of the topic at hand are included in each chapter, the student must keep in mind that most poems aren’t so cut-and-dried and would overlap multiple chapters.

The author of The Art of Poetry, Christine Perrin, is a classical educator who writes from a Christian perspective but not in a preachy way. As with other classic literature, many famous poems include direct or indirect allusions to God and spiritual issues, which should be studied by all who want a well-rounded education. Perrin attended Johns Hopkins University as an undergraduate and the University of Maryland for an MFA. Perrin has taught literature and creative writing to students of all ages, and is a senior lecturer at Messiah College. In addition, she is the content editor at Classical Academic Press for the Writing and Rhetoric curriculum series.

Full program includes three products (which may be purchased separately):

The Art of Poetry Student Edition contains 16 chapters and over 100 poems. The first eight chapters cover the elements of poetry (such as images, metaphor, rhythm, and tone); the final chapters cover the forms of poetry (such as ode, villanelle, and open verse). Each chapter includes an extensive explication of one poem, along with exercises and discussion questions on additional poems. Includes biographies of fifty-one poets, a glossary of terms, and index. 244 non-reproducible pages.

The Art of Poetry Teacher’s Edition is essential to accompany the student edition, unless perhaps the parent has prior experience in interpreting and teaching poetry. The teacher’s edition includes the entire content of the student edition, and after each chapter there are answers and explanations. Answers are detailed, with quotes and teaching points integrated where appropriate. The book also contains teaching tips and suggestions, additional details on thirty-nine poems, a poetry time line, quizzes for each chapter, a cumulative book quiz, and an answer key. The prep time requirement and the need for parental involvement is low to moderate for this course, and is made easy with this book.

The Art of Poetry DVD Set is entirely optional, and not really necessary for individual use, but it would be a good way to offer this course in a homeschool co-op or small group setting. A parent could simply show a segment of the DVD each week, and have the students follow along. The set of 7 DVDs feature more than 15 hours of the author teaching four 8th-grade students through the entire text. Many of the discussions, which proceed chapter by chapter, focus on a Socratic teacher and thoughtful students as they study timeless works of literature. The author also demonstrates in real-time the end-of-chapter activities, which could be useful for visual learners. However, it takes a lot of patience to watch the video segments as they proceed extremely slowly. Bright students would rather just forge ahead in the textbook on their own. Having a group of students watch it together in a co-op or classroom setting makes it more bearable, especially if the proctor pauses the DVD to have the same discussions with the student audience as the teacher has with her pupils in the video.

Sample Chapters:

The Art of Poetry Student Edition (PDF)
The Art of Poetry Teacher’s Edition (PDF)

The Art of Poetry DVD (YouTube link)

Free Resources:

The Art of Poetry Audio Files (MP3) – These audio files include over 130 minutes of recited poetry with readings of most of the poems from this book. Note: the zip file is over 200MB and may take a long time to download, depending on your connection speed.
The Art of Poetry Suggested Weekly Schedules (PDF) – Whether you decide to include The Art of Poetry as a year-long, half-year, or intermittent but regular part of your school year, these plans address a way to do that. Also included are co-op and elective ideas. [Recommended Course Length: One Semester (one chapter per week) for ½ credit.]

SEE ALSO:

Reading and Writing Poetry with Teenagers, by Fredric Lown

This versatile volume combines examples of poetry from historical and contemporary masters with high school writing across multiple disciplines. Each chapter contains poems for reading aloud, poems for discussion, models for writing exercises, samples of student poems, and a bibliography for extended reading. Writing exercises include: Animals as Symbols, Family Portraits in Words, Of War and Peace, Writing Song Lyrics as an Expression of Social Protest.

Give your students an understanding and appreciation of poetry—and help them find their own voice with this curriculum! Every chapter in this workbook presents a different theme of poetry and then gives ideas that inspire teens to write their own poem. The varied selections (classic to contemporary, concrete to abstract) highlight technique, craft, and content. 172 reproducible pages, softcover from Walch; for grades 7 to 12.

And finally, the gift of a classic poetry anthology will enable students to use their new-found skills to continue studying poetry on their own. Offering over one thousand years of verse from the medieval period to the present, The Norton Anthology of Poetry is the classroom standard for the study of poetry in English. Alternatively, The Best Poems of the English Language: From Chaucer Through Robert Frost contains six centuries of great British and American poetry. The book also features an introductory essay by Harold Bloom called “The Art of Reading Poetry.”

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Please note: The above product was NOT provided for free or at a discount in exchange for a review. This item was purchased by a homeschooling family at their own expense.

What types of activities and courses have you used as electives? Leave a comment and we may include yours in a future column!

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