Sometimes I hear teachers and students talk about poetry as if the only purpose for writing a poem is to bare your soul, to go deep and dark; this illuminates another reason why poetry can be such an uncomfortable genre for teachers and students to approach in class. “I just feel funny asking kids to write poems because some of them feel awkward sharing that much of themselves with the world,” a teacher told me once. This view, however, inappropriately confines what poetry can do. … Argument embedded in poems is nothing new. Consider the work of 19th-century Black poet Frances Ellen Watkins Harper and her poem “Songs for the People”: SONGS FOR THE PEOPLE by Frances Ellen Watkins Harper Let me make the songs for the people, Songs for the old and young; Songs to stir like a battle-cry Wherever they are sung. Not for the clashing of sabres, For carnage nor for strife; But songs to thrill the hearts of men With more abundant life. Let me make the songs for the weary, Amid life's fever and fret, Till hearts shall relax their tension, And careworn brows forget. Let me sing for little children, Before their footsteps stray, Sweet anthems of love and duty, To float o'er life's highway. I would sing for the poor and aged, When shadows dim […] Excerpted from “Poetry Pauses: Teaching With Poems to Elevate Student Writing in All Genres” by Brett Vogelsinger. Copyright © 2023 by Corwin Press, Inc. All rights reserved.
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