I like poetry. I can't appreciate very much of it at once, but lots of good things are like that. I don't appreciate very much salt at once either, but in small doses I like it very much. I like the significance of each word in a poem. I think maybe life is like that: put together, people have a meaning as a whole, but each person has a particular significance of their own. Outside of community, nobody means very much, but that doesn't mean that our only meaning is in community.
Tomorrow my sister writes an English exam on poetry, amongst other things.
"I am not a poetry person," she declared. She has to write the exam anyway, though, so I said I'd help her study. By the time we finished she'd changed her mind. Yay! One more won to the poetry minority.
I don't think the way I helped her was particularly amazing, though. Poetry as taught at school is possibly quite un-amazing though. After all, you never (or at best rarely and under pressure) get to read a poem out loud. A poem never leads into a discussion about whether or not primitive people were more at harmony with nature than we are today, because the teacher will always steer the topic back to English, even if the poet was trying to provoke thought about the primitive people. I can't blame the teacher, because she doesn't have time to teach an entire syllabus and let discussion go off topic.
Pippa's a visual learner and for her, drawing the poems helped her make sense of some of them. They don't teach that at school and, to be honest, if anyone had asked me to draw a poem it wouldn't have helped me. I'm not sure it's possible to teach a group of twenty or forty kids to understand poetry. Maybe half of them are interested enough to learn, and that half wouldn't ge enough individual attention as they need, even without the other half fooling around.
I think the biggest problem with poetry at school is that it is rarely played out to its full extent. A poem may raise up a beautiful image for a student, but unless that's particularly powerful they won't be won over without repetition of the experience. Most of the time, school focuses on the technical aspects of a poem. Admittedly, those are the ones that everyone will understand. Not everyone will see the power in every poem. I don't 'get' every poem I read. The problem is that nobody sees the power in any of the poems.
When we've pushed at the meaning of a poem, we can begin to understand the words. I think it's sad that more people can't see the meaning in poetry.