Monday, March 18, 2013

The Art of Poetry (Schoolhouse Review)

Do you know how to “teach” poetry? I really didn’t. We enjoy reading it aloud from time to time and may note instances of alliteration or onomatopoeia, but until now, that’s where my children’s poetic education ended.
The Art of Poetry, published by Classical Academic Press, provides homeschool parents (or classroom teachers) with an excellent program to study poetry with their children.
The Art of Poetry is designed for middle school and high school aged students and includes three components: a student book, a teacher book, and a DVD set (optional).
The 268 page Student Book includes 16 chapters, and covers topics such as images, metaphor, symbols, rhythm, shape, history of form, movements, and genres, as well as focused studies of Emily Dickenson and Walt Whitman.  Each chapter discusses the focus topic, then includes 3-8 poems with discussion questions that help the student analyze and understand the poem in the light of the chapter focus. The chapter ends with a glossary of literary terms and  an activity list with suggestions for observation activities to picture collages to writing assignments.
The hefty 313 page Teacher’s Guide contains the entire student text plus detailed answers for the poetry discussion questions. I found this very helpful—Personally, I would have missed a lot of insight without having this as a guide as I attempted to discuss the topics.
The DVD set features the author, Christine Perrin, MFA, discussing the poems and chapter topics with four students. We found it helpful to hear their thoughts, and the discussion was a good model for showing Emily the types of things she should be noticing in poems. Ms. Perrin also modeled some of the end-of-chapter activities.
Our Experience: I felt that The Art of Poetry was a very thorough and in-depth guide. It has been a challenge for Emily, who is in 7th grade, requiring at times, more abstract thinking than she is capable of. She enjoys poetry, however, and is learning a lot as we progress through the course. My initial intention was to cover most or all of the book in a concentrated study of around two months. Instead, we’re taking it more slowly, so we have ample time to discuss and savor each poem. This is definitely a meaty high school level course, although it is accessible for motivated middle school students.
Our procedure has been to read and discuss the chapter topic the first day, then to read and discuss two poems each day. Sometimes we re-read poems that we’ve already discussed. After we finish the chapter, we watch the DVD. This has helped to cement the concepts and deepen our understanding. Then we choose several of the end-of-chapter activities to work on.
Emily’s favorite activities have involved writing her own poems.
We read this poem by Ezra Pound:
In a Station of the Metro
The apparition of these faces in the crowd:
Petals on a wet, black bough.
Emily wrote her own poem inspired by it:
The heavy drops of rain
fall hard upon the soft soil.
We also read this poem by Emily Dickinson:
Dust of Snow
The way a crow
shook down on me
the dust of snow
from a hemlock tree

Has given my heart
a change of mood
and saved a part
of a day I rued.
Emily wrote:
The Dust of Poop
The way Dove
looks down on me,
The speck of poop from
and old oak tree.

Has given my hair
a change of style
and made it look
so crazy and wild.
Yes, her poem shows her quirky sense of humor, but she’s enjoying writing and poetry!
Final Thoughts: I think the Art of Poetry is an excellent course for those who want to undertake a serious study of the subject. The literary techniques Emily is learning about will be very useful in analyzing any literature, not just poetry. I think the teacher’s book is a necessity because of the answers to the discussion questions and added insights. The DVD set would be nice to have—we have benefited from “listening in” on the discussions and hearing the lectures,  but if the expense is an issue, the course is still very good without them.
The Art of Poetry $24.95
The Art of Poetry Teachers Edition $29.95
The Art of Poetry DVD Set $69.95
Bundle of all 3 products $99.95 (new price April 1)
I received this product free in exchange for my honest review.

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