Why it is relevant to include poetry as part of every curriculum
'A Poem Is
Words turned upside down
And suddenly- The Window Is New.'
In 1999 UNESCO declared the 21st of March as World Poetry Day, not to popularize poetry but because of the need to revive the age-old oral tradition of recitals and, more significantly, to restore a dialogue between poetry and other disciplines. Research has revealed how poetry enables society to regain and assert its identity by enabling individuals to communicate the innermost values of diverse cultures.
Pity that this intention of UNESCO still lies dormant, and teachers of poetry continue to use a forensic approach to dissect poetry, passing on the message to the students that poetry is as difficult to fathom as the mystery of the Sphinx. As a literature teacher and a lover of poetry, I feel the urgent need to sensitize our children and gear them to develop a powerful relationship with the rhythms, forms, and sounds of poems.
Poetry goes back to the crib, and we know of the existence of poetry in ‘front of the caves’ in almost all civilizations. It is, in fact, the foremost medium of communication, a genre whereby the most complex emotions of mind can be expressed most concisely and beautifully.
Today, this world, ravaged by political skirmishes, border disputes, wars, and emotional disturbance, requires schools and homes that teach children/students to develop finer sensibilities, teach them the skill to be mindful, and appreciate and deal with issues with them equanimity of the mind.
Only the inclusion of appreciating poetry will help. Though not scientifically proven, there is evidence that poetry (the right way) to develop skills that are more necessary for living and contributing to a peaceful and vibrant 21st century.
Poems can be taught to create multisensory experiences of the surrounding world and encourage students to see patterns and connections. This is, in fact, the way to teach students with special needs. The alliterative rhythm patterns of poetry make it easy and interesting for them to retain information. So much so that today reading and reciting poetry is recommended to senior citizens as an exercise for the brain and also as a preventive for Alzheimer's disease.
Poetry is not only written by poets who follow the canons of writing-it is, in fact, the easy flow of emotions. Poets use various techniques- metaphors, alliterations, analogies, imagery, rhyme and meter- to convey meaning. Practice in identifying and analyzing these functions leads students to develop their analytical and critical skills. Having learnt to read between the lines and analyze emotions, they get the knack of transferring the skill to other areas of learning. Thus the necessity to use poems in the science, social studies and maths classes too!
From early childhood, we use rhythm to get children to communicate more quickly and effectively. As we know, preschool children learn language by picking up phrases in chunks. Poetry shapes reading and writing and create a better understanding of all texts. A healthy outlet of emotions, poetry, with its economic diction, improves expression and teaches empathy. Teachers should bring the beauty of poetry to the class by connecting it with what the children are familiar with today and then lead them to see similar patterns in classical poetry. An imaginative teacher will use the internet and explore Slam poetry, Button poetry, or even encourage students to create their own by making them see the relevancy of words. And in this era of short messages and tweets, poetry may be an ideal vehicle to entice students to learn. Teachers can use popular culture to open internet windows that bridge the disconnect between the class and the world. Shared learning experiences with our students will create poetic sensibilities that will allow children to put language to use- to make it serve a deep internal purpose, to experiment with rhyme schemes to use poetic license ( like e.e. cummings who didn't believe in using capital letters) and more than anything else to find voice, representation and impact a community perhaps!
Mrs Brinda Ghosh - Principal Gyanshree School
A teacher must be a lifelong learner, and that is what Brinda is! She further believes that a teacher needs to be an influencer and experience the joy of being a practitioner. Brinda Ghosh, an MA, BEd, CIDTT by qualification, started teaching 42 years ago at Vikaasa Madurai. Has taught at every level of school - English teacher - taught at ICSE, CBSE, & CIE Affiliated schools.