Summer 2019 has brought me a great deal of time to reflect and contemplate. And I've been thinking: with the habits we’ve accrued throughout the 21st Century, I find myself consuming more and more from online sources. The physical aspects of enjoying a hand-held text have become more and more meaningful it seems as time goes on; the weight and texture and size and, yes, even the smell of ink and paper somehow add to the text’s meaning—to me. I am constantly receiving (and sending) links to resources, most of which are online.
Public libraries are now shared collectives (which of course brings wider-ranging benefits to broader audiences), and texts are readily available across entire states as digital magazines, e-books, and e-audiobooks. The act of checking out books from public libraries has become self-service. Patrons no longer fill out physical library cards. (I cannot remember doing so since elementary school.) Books put on reserve or requested from other libraries are tagged, shelved for pickup, and await self-checkout. Engagement with texts has become less and less communal.
Gone are the days of passing along books with notes to the next reader. Gone are the days of reading for extended periods of time before retiring for the night. We consume even more—but somehow less—in the 21st Century. Yet even if our daily lives consume us, a single poem can revive us, give us something to ponder as we go about our day. When we’ve exhausted our bodies, a single poem can transport us to sleep.
The reader of a poem need not be the poet or a skilled performer. According to Robert Pinsky, founder of the Favorite Poem Project, "One of the beautiful things about poetry is that the medium is the human body and its voice, but not necessarily the artist's body. When you say a poem aloud by William Shakespeare, Emily Dickinson or Langston Hughes, your voice is the artist's medium." Contrary to popular belief, all sorts of people read poetry; the audience for poetry is not restricted to professors and students; and there are many people for whom particular poems have profound, personal meaning.
If you're looking for ways to engage your students with poetry, THIS WEEK'S FREEBIE is from Stacey Lloyd's arsenal. I've used her Poetry Analysis Worksheet many times, and it gets students talking in a classroom community! In general, Lloyd is one of my "go to's" when I need a new idea, and I hope you'll check out her work AND stop by The Cooperative Classroom on TPT for the 20% off Sale.
With these ideas in mind, I’m launching the Cross-Country Poetry Project, dedicated to celebrating and encouraging the role of poetry in our technology-filled daily lives.
When you receive a Poetry Packet, open the book and flip through the pages. Engage with a single poem. Read notes that others have added to the Collective Pocket inside the front cover (or save them until later). Sign your name on the library card. Find and read poems that interest you. Return to them and read them again. Make notes and leave them in the Collective Pocket. Pass it on. When the book has made its way through the many, many hands of diverse readers, put it in the postage-paid envelope and send it through the United States Postal Service to return home.
Talk to you soon,
If you feel inspired, assemble a Poetry Packet and pass it on. (Include a copy of these instructions.)