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Kids Get Poetry

And it teaches across the curriculum

    “Did you meet any strange creatures on your way to school this morning?”
    My dog … Just a squirrel … My bratty kid brother…
    “I met a timber wolf when I was far up North, taking a walk alone through a snowed-in forest on the edge of the Arctic where I’d been interviewing Native Canadians on the Little Black River in Manitoba … Someone get the globe so we can find Manitoba …”
    Today’s students and I have just met. Yet we launch into discussion as I pass around copies of my encounter. We talk about endangered species, the folly of walking alone through a forest, native peoples, whether I should have been terrified — or was the wolf more frightened of me? Even the species of trees, birch and pine.
    My story happens to be in free verse. Even students who never thought they’d like poetry are caught up. On the other side of the paper is a rhymed version of the same encounter. The children argue which they prefer.
    The children are already scribbling, composing their own poems about their encounters, real and imaginary. Most automatically illustrate their poems, and mine.
    The art teacher and I may collaborate with poems on or about paintings. With the music teacher, songs emerge.
    Poems emerge from … wherever we can imagine.
    My poem “Why I Have Never Written a Baseball Poem” provokes lively sports poems. An Alaskan poet’s dramatic poem about whalers versus environmentalists sets off plays in verse about local controversies.
    From poetry we stray into nature, the environment, science, history, geography, psychology, time travel, music, art, without much need to explain metaphor, simile, stanzas. Poetry covers the waterfront.
    Many visiting artists and poets-in-the-schools programs are sponsored by the Maryland State Arts Council, the counties, libraries and sometimes schools and parent-teacher organizations. All share in supporting artists with a daily honorarium, for some, our major source of income.