William Logan, writing in last Sunday’s New York Times:
Poetry was long ago shoved aside in schools. In colleges it’s often easier to find courses on race or class or gender than on the Augustans or Romantics. In high schools and grade schools, when poetry is taught at all, too often it’s as a shudder of self-expression, without any attempt to look at the difficulties and majesties of verse and the subtleties of meaning that make poetry poetry. No wonder kids don’t like it — it becomes another way to bully them into feeling “compassion” or “tolerance,” part of a curriculum that makes them good citizens but bad readers of poetry. My blue-sky proposal: teach America’s kids to read by making them read poetry. Shakespeare and Pope and Milton by the fifth grade; in high school, Dante and Catullus in the original. By graduation, they would know Anne Carson and Derek Walcott by heart. A child taught to parse a sentence by Dickinson would have no trouble understanding Donald H. Rumsfeld’s known knowns and unknown unknowns.
You can read his whole op-ed here.
Anyone can make a child read a poem. But how can he or she learn to understand it? Further, how do we teach children to write poetry? Here is a new classical course on poetry:
The Grammar of Poetry homeschool curriuclum is a video course and textbook that teaches the mechanics of poetry by using the classical approach of imitation. It is designed for the 6-9th grade level, but is also appropriate for older children and adults seeking to achieve a better knowledge of how poetry works.
Its goal is to teach your child to analyze not only poetry, but words and language in general. Just as an English course would teach a student the different parts of speech, so also the Grammar of Poetry teaches a student the building blocks of poetry, enabling the student to effectively engage in the language of poetry, in literature, and in non-literal language.
This is the ideal introductory poetry course for students and teachers discovering the art of poetry. As a “grammar,” it teaches the fundamentals of poetry from scansion and rhyme to more advanced concepts like spatial poetry and synecdoche.
Using the classical methodology of imitation (advocated by educators like Quintilian and Benjamin Franklin), this text makes students become active participants as they learn the craft of writing poems.
It also offers practical tips and helps, including how to use a rhyming dictionary, how great writers use figures of speech effectively, and even when to break the rules of poetry. Its goal is to show students how to capably interact not just with poems, but with language in any situation.
Developed and used at Logos School with great success, the thirty lessons in Grammar of Poetry contain instruction on ten powerful tropes, student activities for every chapter, riddles to solve, a glossary of terms, a list of over 150 quality poems to integrate, and real-life examples from Shakespeare to traditional tongue twisters.
The teacher, Matt Whitling, is the principal of Logos School (one of the first classical Christian schools to resurface in the United States), and the author of the best-selling Grammar of Poetry textbook. He and his wife Tora live in Moscow, Idaho and have seven children.
Find out more here.