Sunday Morning Poetry Reading with Mary Oliver

These clips were filmed at the poetry reading she gave in January 2011 at Emory University (which I unfortunately could not attend due to a migraine).  Take a few minutes to enjoy these beautiful poems, including one of my personal favorites, “Wild Geese.”

Using Photographs to Dwell in Poems

As I was working belatedly yesterday on adding some new features to one of my National Poetry Month displays on the exterior of the library, I began thinking about what I might feature in addition to student created poems, quotes about poetry, and images of favorite poetry books.  Perhaps because I was surrounded by Ms. Frost’s 9th Honors Literature/Composition students with whom I’ve been immersed in presentation zen this past week, it occurred to me it might be fun to combine favorite lines of poetry or short poems with a carefully selected photograph to unpack a feeling, idea, or image I associated with the lines of poetry or short poem.

After I completed a few slides in PowerPoint, I shared what I had created with Ms. Frost, and she was so excited about what she saw that she plans to work with the library and use this approach to help students dwell in poems by focusing on key lines and images to tease out the concepts of imagery, connotation, and mood.  We plan to use student created slides and convert them into picture files that can then be printed as flyers or posters for hanging or display on art easels to feature throughout the library; we’ll also be sure to include an artistic tag to give students credit for their creation.  I also see this kind of activity as another learning exercise in visual thinking that can be used for a poetry immersion unit and an entry point into discovering new poems.

I hope you enjoy the slides I’ve created so far—to be able to immerse myself in this kind of thinking and content creation was therapeutic for me intellectually and emotionally.  Most of my days are spent as an instructional librarian (which I LOVE), but I relished the opportunity to use most of the workday for content creation as it was great mind candy for me and ultimately, a springboard to a wonderful conversation for some new collaborative efforts with Ms. Frost and her students.  I’ll be working with the wonderful Joy Mabry at our district “Teacher Center” to create poster sized prints of these slides as well as the student generated content to help celebrate and honor poetry year round—I’ll blog an update as soon as we have the new creative works up and on display in the library!

Another source of inspiration came today during a Google chat with my good friend and colleague Diane Cordell, an amazing librarian and lifelong learner.  Diane shared a poetry reading created with  VoiceThread, and I thought how cool it would be for students to choose a poem (either one they have composed or one of their choosing) to read and to add images to represent the poem; they could then narrate these poems individually, with a partner, or as a small group.  I see this kind of learning activity as another way of students remixing and interpreting poetry through sound and audio!

What ways are you using visual literacy or multimedia as an entry point to poetry?

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.