“Poetry is dying”: Creating a (re)new(ed) pedagogical vision for teaching poetry

Year: 2018

Author: Creely, Edwin

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This conceptual paper explores the experiential basis of poetry and its deep connections to human engagement with the world.  This exploration is presented as a foundation for developing a new pedagogical framework for effective poetry teaching in the context of literacy programs and practices in schools. The paper is built on the assumption that poetry teaching is experiencing somewhat of a decline or at least a lack of emphasis in the classroom and in the curriculum.  This decline may be due, in part, to a current focus on more functional or instrumental notions of literacy in schools, as opposed to creative, performative or personal forms of writing. Or, it may be due to perceptions that poetry is dull and elitist. This paper contends that embracing an experiential approach to poetry teaching has the potential for positive reception by students and may promote a deeper and more sustained understanding of poetry and poetic language. Using a phenomenological approach, the article investigates the experiential core of engaging with poetry, with examples for analysis drawn from the poetry of T. S. Eliot. The aim of this analysis is to provide a theoretical foundation for an innovative pedagogical framework for teaching poetry. This framework or approach to poetry teaching is built on four principles: 1. Modelling of reading, writing and performing poetry by educators; 2. Integrating poetry across disciplines and more centrally in the curriculum; 3. Decentring poetry in regard to where and how students read, write and perform poetry (including third spaces); and 4. Challenging traditional notions of what constitutes poetry and proposing instead a more radical and disruptive pedagogy for bringing poetry to the classroom. These four principles are designed to promote greater participation and ownership by students in reading, writing about, producing and sharing poetry. The four principles are conceived as part of a model for a new poetry pedagogy, and this model is designed to be usable for both policy frameworks and for literacy practices in the classroom.