Monday, April 2, 2007

Bringing Poetry to Life through Performance

Even if it weren’t National Poetry Month, April would make me think of poetry. As soon as I realized it was April, my brain automatically began chanting to me:

Whan that aprill with his shoures soote
The droghte of march hath perced to the roote,
And bathed every veyne in swich licour
Of which vertu engendred is the flour
I can usually stop it at that point, and yes, I honestly recite the poem in middle English. I’m a medievalist at heart, and as a student, I memorized and performed lines from The Canterbury Tales. The words are alive and fresh for me.

In a world where poems seem to be dead words upon printed pages, students may find it odd for a poem to live and breathe for a reader; but poetry performance can bring such energy to a text that, as The Canterbury Tales has for me, it can stick with readers for years.

In Chapter 12 of Wordplaygrounds: Reading, Writing, and Performing Poetry in the English Classroom, John S. O’Connor asks:
Why is rejoicing locked up in books? Why can’t schools offer a place for rejoicing? Why do we maintain rigid distinctions between disciplines? Why can’t poems, for example, be seen through other media—music, art, dancing, theater? Why do students often see so little connection between their lives in and out of school? Poetry can provide such a connection. (139)

.As we encourage students to explore poetry with the many 21st Century literacy skills that are part of their world, they may perform sonnets as rap or compose video explorations of haiku. A free-verse poem may rethought as a PowerPoint slide show illustrating the various images in the poem. We can ask students to set favorite poems to music, to create theatrical presentations of poetry, and to illustrate the poems they enjoy. Even a simple podcast of a poem can be expanded sound effects, background music, and the reader’s vocal expression. When we ask students to perform and explore poetry in such ways, we help ensure that poetry is always a living thing for students.


Hogpen said...

You mentioned a few visual aids that brought poetry to life, video Haikus, PowerPoint. Have you ever tried using a comic strip to bring poetry to life? I have found a few on the web that were pretty interesting. I get to work with a fourth grade class in the "Literacy Through Poetry" program and I was thinking of creating an activity that incorporated comics. I think the two mediums share something, some trick of the mind that happens in the blank spaces. Like a wink in punctuation, :) ;) ') :), and the breaks in line of a poem that cause the mind to leap,
the old pond
a frog jumps in--
water's sound
(Basho found on wikipedia). There is more here to be revived with poetry.
a child's comics
the dusty old poetry--
student's sound

Anonymous said...

I also like to have my 7th grade students listen and doodle to poetry. I have the book "Poetry Speaks" and I love to slip in a CD of a poem and have them listen and draw. I often follow it with the poem on paper for them to talk about and analyze, and it opens the poem up for them in a new way.

Donna M.