If a student asks for poetry…

If a student asks for a poetry book that’s not in the library, you buy it.

I didn’t know this rule existed, but as soon as she asked, I realized it was clearly a rule. After all, how often does a student ask to read a book of poetry? How often is the poetry by a poet I don’t know, a poet the student discovered on her own? How often is that poet a refugee, born in a camp as her parents fled the Khmer Rouge regime? How often is the student who is asking a newcomer herself?

After class, we looked up Lang Leav so at least I would know a little about what we were getting into – but, to be clear, I was always going to buy the book. Leav’s style reminds me of Rupi Kaur, whose books are so popular that they regularly disappear from my classroom, leaving me to buy them again. (It’s ok; another unspoken rule seems to be “If a student needs a book of poetry to become theirs, they should probably have it.”)

In April – National Poetry Month – I usually read a poem out loud every day. We don’t study it or anything fancy like that: we just read it. For a few minutes, the poem simply exists with us; the students simply meet it. I choose all sorts of poems, often with the students in mind but sometimes just because I love them. Usually a few students will start to share poems they love after a week or two. Often someone brings up something that a poem reminds them of. Sometimes, like this year, we find ourselves talking about one poem, which leads to another and – oops! – we’ve read four and are accidentally talking about Robert Browning’s Meeting at Night and Parting at Morning and somehow we’re talking about sexual imagery and I’m blushing and then… well, then class continues. And the next day we read another poem.

On this day, the student wasn’t sure which of Leav’s books was “best”, so we looked at the covers and the previews, and then I bought two. Thanks to the miracle of modern shipping, I will put them in her hands tomorrow. I cannot wait.

Two books of poetry: the lefthand one is red and is entitled "Love"; the right hand one is cream and we can see the word "September" in the title.

Because you know what? If a student is reading poetry and falls in love with a poet – well, I buy it.

(Also, I just realized that Rupi Kaur is missing again. I know I spend too much on books for my classroom, but how can I say no?)

5 thoughts on “If a student asks for poetry…

  1. Poetry is magic that somehow opens kids up to reading, writing, and devouring every delicious morsel of it. I set up poetry stations in my library. Some kids discovered they could pop one out (thanks to Austin Kleon and his Newspaper Blackout poetry, along with my subscription to a real, analog newspaper) fairly quickly. Novels in verse are my faves and I set up a variety of poetry books by category. Note to self: Do NOT schedule the book fair during National Poetry Month. I didn’t get much planning time for it, but the students who came through the library in April had a great time. I truly wish teachers would spend more time on it.

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  2. Amanda,
    Of course you cannot say no to poetry, which seems to be the only kind of *real* book I can read these days given certain circumstances. I’ve read Lang Leav’s poetry on IG. Maybe it’s time I buy her books. And can I just say how much I love the way reading one poem rolls into reading another and another! Elaine Showter says if students can learn to analyze poetry they can handle every other type of text, so your lessons are perfect, not just poetry.

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    1. It is the best. We just… enjoy. I choose carefully, of course, and sometimes give background info, but mostly I spend a month showing that poetry can just be enjoyed. It’s a revelation.

      Liked by 1 person

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