What is Poetry?
Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote that poetry is the, “ best words in the best order.” This sums up poetry pretty well. If students are led to believe that all poems must have certain “poetic elements,” or it is not officially a poem then they will be afraid to express themselves, because it takes work (work comes later). Poetry should come freely from students’ emotions. Poems should be an authentic mirror of what students are feeling and thinking.
So what exactly is poetry? What really counts is the sincerity of the poet. Does the poet have something to say or offer to the readers? Does the poet use the “best words in the best order?” If the words are a true reflection of what the poet feels, thinks, and experiences, then you have poetry.
Teaching Students How to Read and Write Poetry as Literature
Reading poetry from a literary perspective takes time and practice. In order for students to do this, they must study the elements, the time periods, the word choices and even the poet’s background.
Writing poetry also takes time and practice as the students learn the elements, and go through the Writing Process. This formal process, although beneficial, is not what this book is about. If one is teaching literature, or is fortunate enough to have a humanities class, then the reading and writing of poetry can be integrated with the learning of history. But history teachers usually do not have the time necessary for the specialized study of poetry. Teachers will find, however, that using poetry to learn history will support the reading and writing of poetry. History teachers will undoubtedly encounter primary source examples of Egyptian, Chinese, Hebrew, Greek and Roman poetry, and if these poems can be utilize these poems as models, or can integrate them into the study of history, they are strongly encouraged to do so.