Monday, October 22, 2012


This is the 6th post in the series  "A CASE FOR READING ....".
"A CASE FOR READING POETRY" is written by Nicky Malcolm.
"The Riches of Poetry
I would describe myself as an enthusiast of poetry with very few real authoritative credentials. I avidly read literature in many forms and poetry is read in spurts along the way. However, the fact is that poems continue to give me great pleasure and I am grateful that they were part of my childhood and education. They satisfy a deep core in me, delight, puzzle, and intrigue me. They present themselves today in many different and surprising contexts. (I consider much 'Rap' to be a form of didactic poetry rather than belonging to the realm of music!) They are, for me, an ongoing adventure! I can take this adventure at my own pace, in my own time, alone, or with others to share in the delightful, indulgent companionship of 'going somewhere special together!'
You will have gathered, by now, that I am a sensualist. Unashamedly so! It is the way God made me! I have a sense of humour about myself! So when Cathy asked me to write a little something about "Why read Poetry?" it gave way to pertinent, pleasurable and playful reflections.
The following are some of the many purposes of poetry in my life.
Poetry is such a lot of fun! Thank you, Dad, for reading me A.A. Milne: 'When We Were Young' and 'Now We are Six'. The 'bestest' of childhood poems! Now handed down to tickle the fancy of further family generations. Fun should be passed down in the family.
  * Humour is probably the first and greatest introduction to poetry.
  * Start at birth. read aloud, read together, read with a twinkle in your eye.
Thanks also to my literary teachers who followed this with 'Narrative Poetry'. Oh, the power of story:to sweep us into the past, to share the adventure, the daring deed, the romance, the peril, the tragedy, the passion, the sorrow, the justice, the judgement, the dying breath, the fleeting of the soul.
  * Narrative Poetry captures the imagination at a very young age.
  * Read aloud, perform with gusto, be moved. Put your heart in the telling.
Thank you to my teachers, and the 'dreaded school syllabus', who introduced me to a whole lot of great poets, some of which I loved and some of which I hated. These poets transported me into their lives and times. I learnt a lot about history and geography, about world views, deities and idols, faith, hope, love-(plus the unrequited kind!), war and peace, changing culture and changing language.
  * My recommendation is pick and mix out of great poetry anthologies to give a taste of times past.
  * Plant a seed of poetic history. It will bear fruit later in life.
Thank you to the poets I read in school and later life, who evoked their experiences, feelings and moods, with such heightened sensory awareness. They took apart the orchestra and drew attention to the solo instrument. They made me thrill and resonate to the purity of a single note.
  * Read poets who paint pictures with words, using great artistry. They will inspire great motivation, art and ideas in the hearer.
  * For the young, this responsiveness is best tapped into immediately.
Thank you to all the posts I have read who have shared their unique personal views with me through their work, helping me understand that we share a common human bond but are all incredibly different in how we experience, perceive, feel and understand life. This is balancing, challenging, humbling and maturing.
  * This kind of poetry should be read after many warm ups and stretching exercises.
  * This will require a bit of literary muscle.
Well, yes, now I am a tiddly bit more mature. I am drawn to the 'puzzlers' because they test my comprehension, or, sometimes, they may even choose to offend me! - (I want to work out why!?). I don't have to like these poems, but I have to admire them for some reason, and be intrigued. I do like many puzzling poems. I like a good mystery. I like the inscrutable; I look for the clues. It demands a long association, with paths gone over and revisited again. New gems, new evidence and tantalizingly slow, (in a good way). Why? Because the experience is pleasurable. There are sounds and scenery and sensations to enjoy along the way. Pauses that are ambiguous, (for why??) and punctuation(or not!?-as the case may be). These poems hone a fine sense of curiosity and investigation, and necessitate the development of detection skills and a higher understanding of the poet's toolbox.
However, the experience of poetry should be a well to look in, not a wall!
  * Unless the sense of wonder is there and the reader is working at a higher level of literary skill these poems will confuse or alienate.
  * A good introduction to 'pleasurable puzzlement' investigation so to understand some more obscure contemporary music lyrics. (You may need to make wise choices here!!)
How to Read Poetry
Poetry requires a different kind of reading. It is not a book. It is a sensory experience!
                                     Photographer - Whetstone Chocolates.
When I talk about reading poetry as an introduction to students, I tell them it is like eating a multi-layered sweet. It is not to be crunched, gulped or swallowed whole. What a waste! It is far too special, and , therefore, important to taste and experience every layer. I then describe a beautiful chocolate truffle with a wonderful crunchy, nutty outside layer before you break through to a thin, hard layer of crisp, sharp and bitter chocolate and enter a multi-layered, sweet truffle experience, - culminating in the bitter-sweet centre of delicious liqueur. (There I told you I was a sensualist!) Part of this experience includes the anticipation leading up to it, and, of course, then the enjoyment of the rich after-taste.
In other words, eat slowly! Enjoy the smell, the sight, every texture, each sound, every taste of the truffle and also every response your body and mind makes to each of these things.
It is through 'experiencing' poetry that we learn. We will not learn everything at once, but good poetry is repeatably and pleasurably educating. Our response normally tells us what we have learnt at any given time.
Poets are like painters. They are artists who paint in words. The poetic tools they use are like colours on the artist's palette and their results may range from naturalistic to abstract. The great thing is - 'There is something in the gallery for everyone!'
The Tools that Delight Me in the Poet's Palette
Rhythm, rhyme and repetition. (Essential introductions for the young at heart.)
Alliteration and onomatopoeia. (Sounds lovely!)
Expression, volume, intonation, timing (...and the dramatic pause!)
All poetic genres - (Whoa! So many of them! Ancient, modern, serious and playful!)
Poetic Forms and Rules (Great discipline)
Metre and stress (Tip - Best to leave stress out of it if counterproductive!)
Grammatical naughtinesses are permissible (Yes, great for anarchic rule breakers!)
Punctuation naughtinesses are permissible (Yes, once again, great for anarchic rule breakers.)
Rule breaking in general may be positively, playfully and purposely permissible!!
Word invention (For fun, creative, genius types!)
Comparison/Simile (It's like.... (duh!))
Comparison/Metaphor (The really exciting stuff, painting with words - skill and artistry at higher levels)
Connotation, pun, satire (The clever, witty stuff!)
All of these 'Poetic Tools' are consciously (or unconsciously) used by the poet to engage our 'senses' and 'responses'. We actually use them and hear them everyday in word and music.
The sad fact is that, we are bombarded with sensory stimuli, stuffing figurative fast food down furiously and not engaging with the moment or the experience enough to know if we are engaging at any level of quality. Or - even if we need to engage at all!?
Go on! Try a chocolate truffle, eat slowly and sweetly and enjoy the moment!
You might end up saying, "Cordon Bleu!"
Tips for Sharing Poetry with the Young
Always, choose poetry, 'to enjoy and share', that is age appropriate and using age appropriate tools.
Don't give a child a chainsaw until he can handle it!
Allow young children to respond in talking, reading, drawing and writing after 'a poetry experience' without an agenda. You will discover what 'engaged' them and what they learnt from listening to the poem. 'Inspiration' is a great self-motivator. Expect repetitions, imitations (-really experimentations), and great creations! (These will not all be in word form!)
Great Poetry Resources on My Shelves
This Little Puffin        Compiled by Elizabeth Matterson        Puffin
Now We Are Six        A.A. Milne                                                 Methuen &Co.
When We Were Young A.A. Milme                                           Methuen & Co.
Lots of 'Dr. Seuss ' books                                                           Collins
Twinkle, twinkle, Chocolate Bar Compiled by John Foster  Oxford
Boy Soup                     Loris Lesynski                                         Annick Press
Noisy Poems          Collected by Jill Bennett                     Oxford Uni Press
Old Poem Anthologies
The best thing you can buy!
I love to collect these and find they are no longer in our public libraries or are out of print. I pick them up in second hand bookshops. They are such a rich resource with something for every age and occasion. They introduce you to a huge history of great poets and great poems.
These are some anthologies I have on my shelves.
My Little Verse and Rhyme Treasury                                             Brimax
The Golden Treasury of Poetry   selected by Louis Untermeyer  Collins
Children's Poetry                        selected by Michael Rosen        Kingfisher
The Oxford Bk of Children's Verse  edited by Neil Philip Oxford Uni Press
Children's Poetry(written by children 1983-1991)
                                             edited by Jennifer Curry                      Fox
The Penguin Book of contemporary Verse  edited Kenneth Allott  Penguin
By Heart 101 Poems to Remember  edited Ted Hughes   Faber and Faber"
THISWEEKWITHTHEKIDS~ take the now weekly visit to the library AND second hand bookshop. Make sure you have LOTS of time to spare to look, read, borrow and buy books on poetry. Once home switch off from the worlds and indulge consuming your 'chocolate truffle', as Nicky says, slowly.

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