It happens this way …
Last Wednesday we completed our third poetry class at Happy Valley Library. These classes were an experiment to see if any one in the local community would be interested in learning how to appreciate the beauty and intensity of poetic language.
To say I was jazzed by the students’ responses to the model poems we looked at would be an understatement. Then, add to all the poetic ground we covered, three wonderfully unexpected things happened:
- Three students emailed me poems based on the prompts I gave in class. Homework was not mandatory, but these folks were serious about upcycling their writing skills. Two were even brave enough to read their poems to the class.
- At the end of this final session, we did a 15-minute writing exercise. When I asked for volunteers to read, my 8th grade boy raised his hand. This was the first time in three weeks the class heard his voice and were blown away by what he wrote. (I found out later that he had never signed up for this class; he just showed up! What gutsiness in one so young!) Then an adult who said she has never read anything she’s written out loud astonished the group with her detailed description of a journey she took. Everyone agreed she had the basis for a very fine travel poem.
- Finally, I understood for the first time what T S. Eliot meant when he said, Genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood. Left-brained folks want to understand what the poet intended and try to wring the meaning out of a piece. That’s fine; but in intellectualizing a poem, we might miss what hits the heart before it hits the mind. As we experiences in class, some lines in some poems are just too astonishing to try to translate. We agreed with Robert Frost who said, Poetry is what gets lost in translation. Thanks to this class, I get that!
The group unanimously recommended we continue to meet if the Library will give us the space. They didn’t want to stop! Needless to say, this experiment was a success!