Finding Their Verses: Student Poetry Reading, Collaboration, and School Libraries

We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman, “O me! O life!… of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless… of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?” Answer. That you are here – that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play *goes on* and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?

John Keating, Dead Poets Society

English teacher Kendra Nayman, her students, and I experienced the power of poetry today with our 2nd Annual Poetry Reading @The Unquiet Library.    Ms. Nayman and I first collaborated on our poetry reading project nearly a year ago in which students immersed themselves in all forms of poetry (virtually and via our awesome poetry collection), composed poems off photographs, and then shared their poems with our poetry reading, which was recorded with Audacity, converted into a MP3 file, and then synced with the slidedecks of students’ photographs.

I find it difficult to accurately articulate the powerful experience of poetry readings and the spoken word or the joy I feel in students participating in this kind of literate community.  Students shared a piece of themselves in a way that took courage to expose an innermost glimpse of themselves to their peers and us as adults.  The themes and ideas ranged from funny to reflective to heart-wrenching, and we shared both laughter and tears.  Many students were surprised by the bubbling over of emotions that often comes with the act of reading a poem, especially one’s own, as well as the talent of their peers and the pride they felt in sharing their poetry.

I feel incredibly lucky to have worked with Ms. Nayman and her classes for two consecutive years and to be part of a learning experience that will stay with these students far longer than some ridiculous,  shallow, and artificial standardized test that can’t even begin to scratch the surface of what students should come to know through experience about poetry. I want students to know that the library is a space that supports these kinds of learning experiences and inquiry; through experiences like today’s poetry reading, the library can help students discover “we read and write poetry because we are members of the human race.”

On Monday, I will blog the LibGuides “subject guide” I will create for this poetry reading, which will include:

I will also share more about our plans to publish the student work and integrate it into our collection in multiple ways.   Until Monday, please enjoy just a sampling of the student interview videos and an interview with Ms. Nayman as well!  I believe these videos reflect the importance of poetry  in today world’s and why poetry still matters.  More videos are available at The Unquiet Library YouTube Channel.


Poetry Reading 2.0: Poetry Slidecast, Mrs. Nayman’s 1st period!

On Wednesday, April 29, Mrs. Nayman’s 1st period 11th American Literature/Composition students shared poems inspired by personal photographs @ The Unquiet Library!  You can enjoy the slidecast below to see their photos and hear each student read his/her poem.  Simply click the green button, and the slides will automatically play and advance themselves.

It took me awhile to get the hang of syncing the mp3 audio to each slide, but after some trial and error, I think I have it.  I hope to improve my syncing skills as I work on the next two poetry podcasts/slidecasts for 2nd and 7th periods.

I am also making class books of each set of poems for the poetry reading—one set for the library, and one set for Mrs. Nayman’s classroom; many thanks to Mrs. Joy Mabry of the Cherokee County School District Teacher Center for her help with this endeavor!    The photos from the day are also housed at http://www.flickr.com/photos/8166472@N03/sets/72157617481444372/ .  We also have the student poems hanging from our poetry clothesline.

For help on creating the Slidecasts, try these resources:


Poems for Your Pockets: A Clothesline of Poetry

Poem in Your Pocket Day 2009 is almost here!  What is Poem in Your Pocket Day?

The idea is simple: select a poem you love during National Poetry Month then carry it with you to share with co-workers, family, and friends on April 30, 2009. Poems from pockets will be unfolded throughout the day with events in parks, libraries, schools, workplaces, and bookstores.

We will be celebrating in The Unquiet Library with poetry readings and free poems for everyone!  Today we hung the first clothesline of poetry—check out the slideshow above.  More clotheslines full of poems for your pockets are coming next week—stay tuned!  Many thanks to Mr. Jason Hubbard for helping me hang the clothesline since I am vertically challenged!

Many thanks to Kenyon College for the idea and for letting me borrow it!

Poets and Writers+Daily Lit=Free Poetry!


DailyLit: Masters of Verse, book by Poets & Writers via kwout

Poets and Writers has teamed up with Daily Lit to bring you a daily dose of poetry via email or RSS feed:

In celebration of National Poetry Month, Poets & Writers, in conjunction with DailyLit, will post a poem every day throughout April. Masters of Verse: Thirty Poems by Late, Great Poets offers some of the best-known poems (together with a few uncommon selections) for readers who want to rediscover the lasting power of poetry.

You may also want to follow: