Long considered an add-on or an afterthought when teaching literature, the practical benefits of writing poetry -widely seen as an impractical form of literature-are many.
Teachers, even literature teachers tend to think of poetry as an add-on. An afterthought, that they might explore with their students after the class has read the prose prescribed in the curriculum. However teaching poetry is crucial for teaching writing and reading –skills that are becoming increasingly important in this over communicated world of ours. Despite this the education landscape seems intent on putting this exquisite form of self-exploration and creative expression on the backburner. Schools are choosing to prioritize expository writing and non-literary texts in the classroom, not realizing that all forms of writing that students are asked to do in the classroom can benefit from the beauty, power and brevity of poetic verses.
Apart from the academic goals of improving reading, writing and comprehension skills, at a personal level writing poetry enables a young poet to articulate his or her experience and grow emotionally and intellectually. It is a healthy and creative outlet for a young poet’s emotions. Reading one’s own poetry in front of the classroom can foster confidence between the poet and his or her peers, creating an air of trust in the classroom. It can also improve public speaking and listening skills.
Students who struggle with traditional rules of writing may enjoy the relatively nebulous rules of poetry. They are allowed to bend or break grammar and even spelling conventions when writing poetry. They can decide whether their poems will rhyme or not. They can decide whether the poems will make sense of not (think Sufi Tabassum’s and Lewis Carroll’s nonsensical poems). The only requirement for writing poetic verses is that they be vivid and straight from the heart.
If schools and teachers need more convincing about incorporating poetry in the classroom and the curriculum, we would like to share a sensitive and remarkably mature poem written by Omar Qassim, a 10th grade student of BVS Parsi High School to illustrate what we are trying to say.
Nature Through My Years
By Omar Qassim
I don’t remember the days I was 2,
But boy am I sure they would’ve been the best,
When life was like a newly blossomed sunflower,
Untouched by the atrocities of this monstrous world.
I do remember when I was 6 though,
Running eyes closed through the country lane,
When life was like a stream of crystal water,
Unaffected by negativity, flowing place to place without any stops.
I recall being 15,
With some bittersweet, yet unforgettable memories,
When life was like a free-spirited bird,
Soaring carefree with ease, but without any direction.
18 was the time I sometimes regret,
Staying out late and not answering momma’s calls,
When life was like a volcano buried in the meadows,
Thinking its lava could demolish anything, yet not realizing it itself would be the first to drown.
Being 22 was probably the calm before the storm,
Freshly graduated, discovering happiness,
When life was like a breathtaking sunset,
Seeming livelier than ever, still ending up into a gloomy night-sky.
30 years old and everything was falling apart,
Drowning my sorrows into a Cuban cigar on a New York roof,
When life was like seashells washed onto the coast,
Wandering hopelessly, with no clue where they might end up.
Finally found purpose around 47,
Big time lucky millionaire, divorced twice, but 3 beautiful children,
When life was like a really old willow tree,
Tested through fierce weathers, still standing taller than ever.
65 and my heart gave up, but my soul wasn’t ready to,
7 lovely grandchildren to admire, but only through my webcam on Wednesday evenings,
When life was like an undiscerned island,
Filled with riches of all kinds, but too far away to exploit.
I’m 83 now, and almost breathless,
With the Angel of death and the ones I love roaming around my house,
When life is like the last petal falling off the cherry blossom branches,
Marking the end of their time, but leaving behind moments that will forever be captured in the hearts of those who witnessed.