For the last two weeks in the HS Literature class we have been covering poetry. After several weeks of reading and analyzing short stories, poetry has been a fun transition. Our focus on poetry has been the way in which an author can use words, sound, rhythm, and language to communicate both emotion and idea. Poetry is an auditory experience. Where a short story can be read internally, the flow of plot and character development considered and then discussed, poetry demands to be heard. The skill of the poet lies in transforming words (literally, the words on the page) and language (the meaning that lies behind a word) into an emotive and thought provoking experience.
We have covered a variety of poets, ranging from some American HS classics (Langston Hughes' "Harlem", Dylan Thomas' "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night") to lesser known, modern poets (black poet Terrance Hayes). In class today we explored T.S. Eliot's "Rhapsody on a Windy Night," a notoriously ambiguous poem from one of the first "modern" English poets. The students did a great job identifying his use of literary devices throughout the poem. As they listened to a reading of it and followed on paper, they noted his use of simile, metaphor, alliteration, personification, onomatopoeia, rhyme, consonance, assonance, and repetition. It was impressive to see them quickly identify each of these elements in a poem that shoves figurative language in nearly each of its mysterious and serendipitous lines.
For homework over the weekend, students will be composing their own poem. They are free to explore any subject and write a poem of any length. They will be reciting their poems in class on Monday, demonstrating their ability to use the tools of the poet to make an emotional communication. Feel free to ask them how it is going, to hear what they are working on, and to see them putting the lessons they've learned in class into practice in their burgeoning poetry.