Posted by: Kathy Temean | August 16, 2017

Why Poetry by David L. Harrison

Evan Robb at his educational site posed the question – “Why poetry?” to David Harrison. If you want to know, asking a great poet is the way to go. Here is what David wrote for his site.

“Why poetry?” the response may be a surprised look, the sort you’d expect if you’d asked, “Why do you breathe?” Perhaps it’s better to ask, “Why poets?” Who are these passionately dedicated people who throw themselves into the slow, tedious business of making poems? Good poetry is hard to write, selling poetry is next to impossible, and poets rarely make much money. So why poetry, why poets, and why should you care?

I can’t speak for other poets (although I bet they’d all answer in much the same way), but I love the challenge of beginning with an idea and facing all those decisions that must be made before I wind up with a finished poem. In music, the same notes in different combinations produce jazz, Dixieland, blues, marches, and symphonic works. In poetry, the same words in different combinations produce a marvelous variety of verse. Most days I work twelve hours, much of it writing poetry. I’m a freelance writer. No one is going to pay me if I don’t produce. Few would care or notice if I stopped. I work alone. If I spend hours trying to decide between one rhyme or another, struggling with a stubborn meter, seeking a stronger noun, searching desperately for just the right simile – who cares? Well, first of all, I care. No poet worth his salt is ever going to stop working on a poem until he reads it aloud one more time and loves what he hears.

Ask a teacher who has learned that poetry is one of the best tools in the toolbox for teaching fluency, comprehension, vocabulary, and love of language, “Why poetry?” You might hear, “Couldn’t do without it!” At least I hope that’s what you hear! Teachers who routinely use poetry in their classrooms know that the rhymes and cadences of structured language make it easier to remember than prose and more fun to read repeatedly. Teachers who invite their students to write poems of their own know that children’s poetry offers a wonderful opportunity to share the rich diversity of our people.

But someone else cares too. Ask a third grader who has had positive experiences with poetry at home and/or school, “Why poetry?” You might hear, “I like poems. Sometimes they’re funny and they make me laugh.” What that third grader or first grader or fifth grader doesn’t realize is that poetry’s nuances, metaphors, echoing sounds, song-like qualities, rhymes, and cadences are providing much more than entertainment. Young readers have no idea how hard the poet worked to make them laugh or think or see something in a new light or provide them with examples of language used beautifully. Why should they? It’s their right to read good poems.

Why poetry? Ask a poet or a teacher if you want to. I’m going with the third grader.

© David L. Harrison

David Harrison has published ninety-two titles that have earned dozens of honors, including the Christopher Award for The Book of Giant Stories. His work has been translated into twelve languages, anthologized more than one hundred eighty-five times, and appeared in over eighty magazines and professional journals. In Springfield, MO, David Harrison Elementary School is named for him. His poem, “My Book,” is sandblasted into The Children’s Garden sidewalk at the Burton Barr Library in Phoenix, Arizona and painted on a bookmobile in Pueblo, Colorado. David’s poetry inspired Sandy Asher’s popular, award winning school plays, Somebody Catch My Homework and Jesse and Grace and has been set to music performed for numerous live audiences. In 2007, the Missouri Librarian Association presented David with its Literacy Award for the body of his work. David holds science degrees from Drury and Emory universities and honorary doctor of letters degrees from Missouri State University and Drury University. He is poet laureate of Drury. David lives with his wife, Sandy, a business owner and retired guidance counselor. He is working on many new books.

If you like poetry check out David blog and participate in his “Poem of the Month.”

Website: http://www.David L. Harrison.com
Blog: http://www.davidlharrison.wordpress.com

EVAN ROBB is an author, principal, and speaker. He is a middle school principal in Clarke County, Virginia. He is a committed educator, progressive thinker, author, speaker, and fitness enthusiast.

He says, “All learning begins with a question.”

The Robb Review Blog contains his thoughts and thoughts of his guests about preparing our students for their future. His blog is focused on looking ahead, not looking back.

Blog: http://therobbreviewblog.com/

Twitter: @ERobbPrincipal

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Responses

  1. Kathy, thank you for featuring my article today. And my thanks to Laura and Evan Robb for encouraging me to write it for their own blog.

    Like

  2. What a great post. Thanks David and Kathy! Ode to Poetry: Long may it live!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Reblogged this on Darlene Beck-Jacobson and commented:
    This is a great answer to WHY POETRY!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Darlene. Much appreciated!

      Like

  4. Wonderful article. David knows what he’s doing when he knows to ask the third grader.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Love this, David 🙂 If anyone would know about this, it would be you!

    Liked by 1 person


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