Poetry Friday: Listen Up!

By now we are sure that you are aware that April is National Poetry Month! We hope you have already encountered poetry in some shape or form in the past week, whether it be on purpose or by accident. We hope it’s creeping into your daily life somehow, and that you’ve welcomed it!

Dodge Poetry has been keeping an ear to the ground to take note of the ways listening to poetry is worked into this month. We asked around some teachers on our Facebook and Twitter pages to see how poetry was being involved in classrooms all around the country.

Many teachers as well as non-teachers said they will take part in Poem in Your Pocket day, which is an idea we love because it is simply bringing the pleasure of being read to those around you, as you read your favorite poem to them. This is just one of the great programs suggested by The Academy of American Poets for National Poetry Month, along with the Dear Poet Project, which encourages students to write letters to poets after reading one of the poet’s poems. This spirit of exploration and connection with the poet is wonderfully intimate, and select letters will receive a reply on Poet.org. Click here to see The Academy’s 30 Ways to Celebrate, a great resource.

Not a new initiative, but also one of our favorites, is Poetry 180, which was started by Billy Collins during his time as Poet Laureate of the United States. Based on the accessible poems in the accompanying collection Poetry 180 (also the second collection, 180 More) the suggestion is that every school day start off with poetry. Ideally, the poems would follow the end of daily announcements, so that the whole school would start their day with the pleasure of listening to poetry. Even just in one classroom, the exercise of starting the day with a poem read aloud is a powerful one. And do not think the poems in Poetry 180 are for students only – there is powerful, relatable stuff in the collections, for readers of any age.

Poetry Foundation has started a page through SoundCloud called Record-a-Poem, where you can record yourself reading a favorite poem aloud and listen to those recorded by others. Poetryfoundation.com is a great place to find the text of some of these favorite poems, too. One fun listen is a reading by a 1st grade class in Oak Park, IL, in unison! We love the interaction that happens when you listen to someone’s rendition of a poem they love. Their connection brings new life to a poem you may not have connected with on your own.

Teachers are actively incorporating National Poetry Month in their classrooms in a lot of interesting ways. Some great activities that we heard:

“The favorite activity for NPM is “Secret Poems.”  The students print out original poems and poems by other poets and post them up around the school.  Nobody tells anyone who is doing it.  I see students stop in the hall to read a poem.”

“We are currently making poetry videos. Using imovie, my students pick a poem by Plath, Bishop, Lowell, Frost, Elliot, or O’Hara (what we’ve studied so far), research images from the web or snap pics of their own that match the imagery presented in the poem, read the actual poems into the mic, and then edit it all together to make a poetry video.”

“Our students in the middle school memorize famous poems as well as poems that they have written. On a Friday night in April, the cafeteria is converted into a cafe. Parents, teachers, and friends are invited. There’s always a hip house band. And the mesmerizing recitations of the students. This year we are also inviting the alumni to recite the poems that they have memorized in my poetry classes. Who am I? I’m the principal of the school, the middle school poetry teacher, and the hipster MC.”

“I always have an open mic on Poem in Your Pocket Day. Sometimes I’m able to get the whole school involved by having staff give a certificate for a free ice cream to a student of their choice that day. Also, I usually put together a packet of poems that we can read every day as our Do Now.”

“My [students] have to do ten acts of devotion to poetry in the month of April and document their devotional acts in video or PowerPoint. Last year, poetry was draw in the sand in Aruba, set to music and sung on YouTube, and shouted on busy street corners. We also have a poetry recitation day at school and share poems on Twitter by hashtagging #poetrymonth.”

We hope you have your ears open this month! You’re bound to hear a new favorite or an old love.


A big THANK YOU to all of the teachers who helped us by letting us in on what teachers are doing in their classrooms: Chris Ventimiglia, Suezette Given, Sarah Blake Schoenholtz, Shahe Mankerian, Alejandro Escude, Margaret Simon, Scott Woods, and Nancy Schneberger. We appreciate you!

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