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Posts Tagged ‘National Poetry Month’

By Corinne Viglietta

Which poem is in your pocket ? (Source: F. Nivelon, The rudiments of genteel behavior, 1737. Folger Collection. )

Which poem is in your pocket ? (Source: F. Nivelon, The rudiments of genteel behavior, 1737. Folger Collection. )

Happy Poem in Your Pocket Day, everyone! We’re taking a little break from our Teaching Twelfth Night with Technology series to celebrate the power of verse with you.

If you’d like some ideas for engaging students and colleagues in this national poetry fest, or if your pocket is without a poem (gasp!), keep reading.

When I was teaching high school English, today was my favorite day of the year—and a big community day for our school. A few weeks before Poem in Your Pocket Day, the faculty and staff—STEM teachers, humanities teachers, support staff, administrators, librarians, you name it—would select which poem they’d be carrying on this day. (Awesome colleagues, right?)

Then, the English teachers would get together and use those poems to create school-wide Poem in Your Pocket scavenger hunts for all of our students. For instance, students might have to recite the first line of Ms. Jackson’s poem (“We Real Cool” by Gwendolyn Brooks) or reflect on the anaphora in Mr. Williams’ favorite poem (“If” by Rudyard Kipling).

Or they’d have to share their favorite words from one of the many wonderful Billy Collins picks among the adults.  And there were always two key rules for students: 1) you must ask the adult to read the poem out loud before you ask your scavenger hunt question, and 2) poetry should be buzzing in every corner of school during breaks, passing periods, and lunch—and even during class time, as long as your teacher allows!

By the end of Poem in Your Pocket Day, we grown-ups had gotten to read some of our favorite poems out loud, dozens of times. More importantly, though, students had gotten to hear their teachers and principals and coaches—most of whom were not English teachers—speak some verse and talk about what poetry means to them. I loved one 11th grader’s excuse for being woefully late to lunch: she was asking the Spanish teacher about the finer points of translating a Neruda sonnet.

Speaking of sonnets, you might think that they’re the only way to go if you want to carry Shakespeare in your pocket today. Not true. Shakespeare’s plays are full of poetry, and here are just two of the many examples. Feel free to carry one of these in your pocket today!

Poem #1:

From Romeo and Juliet, 1.5

 

ROMEO, [taking Juliet’s hand]
If I profane with my unworthiest hand
This holy shrine, the gentle sin is this:
My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand
To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss.
JULIET
Good pilgrim, you do wrong your hand too much,
Which mannerly devotion shows in this;
For saints have hands that pilgrims’ hands do touch,
And palm to palm is holy palmers’ kiss.
ROMEO
Have not saints lips, and holy palmers too?
JULIET
Ay, pilgrim, lips that they must use in prayer.
ROMEO
O then, dear saint, let lips do what hands do.
They pray: grant thou, lest faith turn to despair.
JULIET
Saints do not move, though grant for prayers’ sake.
ROMEO
Then move not while my prayer’s effect I take.
[He kisses her.]

 

Poem #2:

From A Midsummer Night’s Dream, 5.1

ROBIN

If we shadows have offended,
Think but this and all is mended:
That you have but slumbered here
While these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream,
Gentles, do not reprehend.
If you pardon, we will mend.
And, as I am an honest Puck,
If we have unearnèd luck
Now to ’scape the serpent’s tongue,
We will make amends ere long.
Else the Puck a liar call.
So good night unto you all.
Give me your hands, if we be friends,
And Robin shall restore amends.
[He exits.]

 

Corinne Viglietta is Assistant Director of Education at the Folger. She has taught English in DC, Maryland, and France.

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By Kevin Costa

Illustration opposite Sonnet XII by Henry Ospovat. (Folger Shakespeare Library)

Illustration opposite Sonnet XII by Henry Ospovat. (Folger Shakespeare Library)

Shakespeare’s Sonnets are fantastic for so many reasons. Peter O’Toole, in an interview on NPR a few years ago, said, “They’re my life companion. They’re at the side of my bed. They travel with me. I pick them up, and I read them all the time. I find them endlessly informing, endlessly beautiful, endlessly – they say, they hit the spot so many times on so many things.”

He’s right. I find myself turning to the Sonnets in times when I’m looking for a companion who seems to understand me before I myself do — and, let’s be honest: isn’t that why we love literature in the first place?

When I with my students, I like to emphasize how “companionable,” to borrow a word from Yeats, poetry can be. The greatest lyric poetry feels like that friend you turn to who just “gets” you. There is no judgement but only unconditional love from a poem. I start there.

Years ago, I remember watching Trevor Nunn working with David Suchet on what would later become the series, Playing Shakespeare. Nunn asked Suchet to perform Sonnet 138 as if it were Suchet’s part of the dialogue in an imagined scenario. I was riveted. Understanding Shakespeare for the stage was the object there, but I have found this approach to be a superb way of achieving all the objectives of close reading in and English classroom. Laurence Perrine would approve!

With lyric poetry, we often feel that a person is right there speaking to us or, at least, to another person. A poem, in other words, gives us a character. And this is where you might begin, too. Let us look at Sonnet 18.

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By Corinne Viglietta

 

Happy National Poetry Month! To celebrate, we share with you a special poem inspired by the poet Claudia Emerson’s visit to our very own Folger Shakespeare Library. It’s a beautiful meditation on the life of an author—not Shakespeare, but Emily Dickinson, whose belongings were on view as part of a special 2012 exhibit.

We thank Martha Harris, a wonderful teacher and friend of the Folger, who happened upon this poem and shared it with us. We hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

 

Folger Shakespeare Library

Lock of hair belonging to Emily Dickinson. Enclosed in a letter to Emily Fowler. Courtesy of Emily Dickinson Museum and Amherst College Special Collections.

Lock

CLAUDIA EMERSON

 

After the Emily Dickinson traveling exhibit at the Folger Shakespeare
Library, Washington, D.C., 12 April 2012

I noticed the quick wore off those things …
—EMILY DICKINSON, ON DAGUERREOTYPES

The evening includes a reception, wine
and hors d’oeuvres with the curator, lighthearted
discussion of the various diagnoses,
hypotheses long debated—depression,
lesbianism, grief, agoraphobia,
the kind of anxiety a cat has
about the threshold, and the most recent
theory—epilepsy; that would explain it
all, they say, spasmodic punctuation,
reclusiveness, the shame, everything,
the hour of lead, at last, unlocked.

 

You can read the rest of Claudia Emerson’s poem at Poetry Daily.

 

 

Corinne Viglietta is Assistant Director of Education at the Folger. She has taught English in DC, Maryland, and France.

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