Friday, November 16, 2007

Poetry in our house

For the last two years I have made a more concerted effort to foster poetry appreciation. It started with simply memorizing a few poems. Last year, we learned "The Charge of the Light Brigade", "O, Captain! My Captain!", parts of "Paul Revere's Ride", and Macbeth's soliloquy in Act V after Lady Macbeth dies. I chose all of these from Laura Berquist's collection, The Harp and the Laurel Wreath.

People have asked me how we memorize long poems. It's really pretty simple. I read a line or two, the boys repeat it. I read a couple more lines, they repeat. We put them together, read, repeat, read, repeat. Then I have them recite what they have learned. The next morning they recite again what they did the day before and we keep adding lines day by day reading, repeating, reciting until we've learned the complete poem. I guess the fourth "r" of our poetry learning method is review. Every so often, we review by reciting poems we've learned before. So, for example this year, we will occasionally recite one of our poems from last year. I think we are all amazed that we remember them. Hey, I guess that's "r" number five. So there you have it, our family's five "r" system for poetry memoriztion: read, repeat, recite, review, remember!

Last year we learned more literal, narrative, and historical poems. So far, this year we are learning poems with more spiritual import, symbolism and imagery. We are talking more about figurative language, forms, and literary devices. We have learned "God's Grandeur", "The Clod and the Pebble", and our current poem is Shakespeare's Sonnet 116:

LET me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O, no! it is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love ’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error, and upon me prov’d,
I never writ, nor no man ever lov’d.

The other books we have relied on most in our recent study are The Norton Anthology of Poetry and The Roar on the Other Side: A Guide for Student Poets by Suzanne U. Clark. Enjoy with me a few lines from Clark's introduction:

Poetry starts with silence - not silence in the world but silence in the mind.

If we cultivate the art of inner quiet and develop habits to nurture the mind's green fields, we will hear the melodies of Heaven.

Stillness needs a larger room than most of us give it. By making decisions to read a good book instead of watching TV or take a walk instead of playing a video game, you are enlarging this room. Writing poetry will add floor space and a skylight.

We love God with our mind when we admire smoothness, strangeness, structure, intricacy, fragrance, complexion, motion. 'Glory be to God for dappled things,' exclaimed the poet-priest Gerard Manley Hopkins.

We read that poem this morning and now I look out at the dappled play of afternoon light on flaming trees. Glory be to God, indeed!

This poetry study is another one of those homeschooling stretching and enriching experiences for me. I remember snatches of poems I learned in 7th grade, but I am now relishing reading, learning, and memorizing as well as listening and seeing in ways I never did when I was in school. The boys do, I think, enjoy our poetry now, but I expect they will appreciate it even more when as adults the line "It is the star to every wandering bark" slips into their thoughts as they contemplate love, or when as they gaze on a brilliant fall afternoon, they realize that "The world is charged with the grandeur of God..."

Excellent reasons for having more poetry in our days. Do you have favorites? Would you share?


Anonymous said...

I think continually of those who were truly great.
Who, from the womb, remembered the soul's history
Through corridors of light where the hours are suns,
Endless and singing. Whose lovely ambition
Was that their lips, still touched with fire,
Should tell of the spirit clothed from head to foot in song,
And who hoarded from the spring branches
The desires falling across their bodies like blossoms.

What is precious is never to forget
The delight of the blood drawn from ancient springs
Breaking through rocks in worlds before our earth;
Never to deny its pleasure in the simple morning light,
Nor its grave evening demand for love;
Never to allow gradually the traffic to smother
With noise and fog the flowering of the spirit.

Near the snow, near the sun, in the highest fields
See how these names are feted by the waving grass,
And by the streamers of white cloud,
And whispers of wind in the listening sky;
The names of those who in their lives fought for life,
Who wore at their hearts the fire's center.
Born of the sun, they travelled a short while towards the sun,
And left the vivid air signed with their honor.

Stephen Spender

Amber Benton said...

We read and copied Dappled Things last year in CoOp after studying Homer's watercolor of the leaping speckled trout!

I love the image of green field's of the mind...

Beth said...

That poem is the perfect complement to Homer's painting.

Amber Benton said...

That was Bonnie :) She's really good at those connections. It cemented both the painting in the poem in my mind!

Jen Unsell said...

Thanks for this post Beth. We will be "rowing" Paul Reveres Ride in January in our school and I am hoping we can memorize part or all of it together as part of our lessons. Houston is looking forward to this doing this story!

Poetry is an area we could work on more around here! For years I wrote poetry but have not written anything in quit some time. I really need to make more effort.