"ARS POETICA"

Foothill Technology High School 
Favorite Poem Project


"Poetry is ordinary language raised to the Nth power. Poetry is boned with ideas, nerved and blooded with emotions, all held together by the delicate, tough skin of words."
Paul Engle

A Favorite Poem | Task | Process | Resources | Evaluation | Conclusion


A FAVORITE POEM

Reading the very best poetry should be an intense and highly personal experience.  The best poetry, as Mr. Geib explained, should be the emotion and passion of being human (loving, hating, celebrating, or mourning, etc.) distilled into a few powerful lines of dynamic verse; it should be the essence of a feeling or an idea concentrated into metaphor and imagery, like pure orange juice squeezed from the orange.  Hence, the poetry that speaks to the reader most directly should also do so most intensely; such poetry should not leave one feeling unmoved or lukewarm.  A favorite poem should be able to express what you feel or think better than you have ever been able to do so far in your own words.  It is the genius of poetry to tap those inchoate feelings and impressions and make them clear and luminous in our souls.  There will always be plenty of poems that leave a reader indifferent or hostile, but there should always be poetry that one not only likes but loves.  Do you know any such poems yet?

One should always have a few wise and beautiful poems and poets near at hand, for protection and solace in the agony and pain of life.  A favorite poem should be precious and dear, like a symbol or reminder of what is most precious and dear in our emotional lives.  In this project you are going to identify one such poem, present it to your peers, explain why you chose it, and lead a discussion about it.

TASK

Identifying your favorite poem, out of all the millions of poems written, is not a simple task.  Complete this project in the following order:

First, you must choose three friends and form a "poetry circle"; these are the people who are going to help you in presenting your poem to your peers.  Next, you must individually do some general research and find out which poems speaks to you most passionately and eloquently.  Search the World Wide Web,  consult with friends, family, and teachers, and then narrow your search for your favorite poem down to a handful of final candidates.  Give each poem a fair hearing, and then choose one that you like the best of all.  Trust your instincts and listen to your gut.  Which poem moves you the most?  Impresses and influences you?

Once you identify the poem, you need to prepare to share it with the class, analyze it in front of them, explain why it is your favorite, and then lead a short discussion with your peers.  You should explain the poem clearly and thoroughly, and you should explain what the poem means to you; the discussion you lead afterwards should be guided by certain pre-defined questions, and you should ably and skillfully direct the conversation.  The other members of your poetry circle will help you distribute materials and run the computer during the presentation.

Make sure your presentation answers the following questions:  Why did you choose this poem?  What in it appeals to you?  Where did you find it?  Who suggested it to you?  What elements of poetry does the poet employ?  What is the tone and form of the poem?  What is poet trying to say?  How can you explain this poem to students so they can clearly understand what it is you love in it?  How can you communicate your passion and enthusiasm to your fellow students?  During your presentation, what do you want students to understand?  Your final grade will depend on your presentation answering these questions.  

Remember the quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson: "Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm."  Be enthusiastic about your poem, without overdoing it.  Be honest and direct.

PROCESS

The following instructions will lead you to success in this project:

  1. Choose partners for your "poetry circle."
  2. Do research on the World Wide Web.
  3. Identify a list of possible favorite poems.
  4. Narrow choice of poems down to a handful.
  5. Make a webpage or MS Word or FrontPage file with the poem on it, accompanied by a pertinent graphic
  6. Make a copy of your favorite poem with study questions on it for each student in class.  (NOTE: If you are going to choose a little known and/or a contemporary teenage poet, be sure to get Mr. Geib's approval).
  7. You can videotape your presentation at home (article, and examples using RealAudio plug-in; why video?), bring it to school, and then show it in class (this allows you to personalize your project to a high degree).
  8. Write up five study questions to help you lead class discussion; have a copy of questions for each student in class.  These will be the outline for class discussion.  Regardless of whether you make a video or present your poem in person, you need to lead an insightful and engaged class discussion of your poem.
  9. Come to class on day of your presentation with webpage to be shown on overhead and copies of poem and study questions for each student.
  10. Read poem to class and lead discussion afterwards (What we want to see; don't want to see).
  11. Be ready to handle any questions from students and/or Mr. Geib.

RESOURCES

"Poetry is, above all, an approach to the truth of feeling.... A fine poem will seize your imagination intellectually—that is, when you reach it, you will reach it intellectually too— but the way is through emotion, through what we call feeling."  Muriel Rukeyser

The following resources will assist you in your quest to locate a favorite poem:

  • Favorite Poem Project.  Robert Pinsky, former Poet Laureate of the United States, leads a project asking ordinary Americans about their favorite poems.  A great source of material for this project!
  • Favorite Poem Project Archive of Robert Pinsky's nationwide initiative to record Americans reading their favorite poems, as well as explaining what these poems mean to them.
  • Atlantic Monthly Poetry Section  Literary criticism of verse, as well as many successful contemporary poets reading their poems (ra plug in).
  • Poetry Searcher  Eclectic collection of poetry, ranging from classical Greek works to the nineteenth century.
  • AmericanPoems.com  Selection of poems and biographies of poets including Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, and Robert Frost, as well as contemporary writers.
  • Bartleby.com: Oxford Book of English Verse 1250-1900  From the 1919 Arthur Quiller-Couch edition.
  • 100 Greatest Love Poems Ever Written  Selected by Poetry.com.
  • Classic Love Poems on the Web  Links to poems which express every permutation of love. Poets included are Emily Dickinson, Donald Hall, e.e. cummings, Robert Burns, John Donne, and Amy Lowell.
  • Passions in Poetry: Love Poems  Archive of web published love poems.
  • Study Guide for Classic EnLove Poems  Includes Edmund Waller's "Song," Emily Dickinson's "If You Were Coming in the Fall," Elizabeth Barrett Browning's "Sonnet XLIII, from the Portuguese," and Christina Rossetti's "Echo."
  • Poets' Corner Collection of public domain works indexed by author, title, and subject.
  • Fooling with Words with Bill Moyers  Covering the events and the poems shared at the 1998 Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival. With sound clips, poems, poet biographies, teacher's guide, lesson plans, and links.  Good site about poetry today!
  • e-poets.net  Poets, artists, writers, and performers who embrace the electronic media as a venue and home for their art. Features a library, The Incomplete History of Slam, The Book of Voices, poetry news, and sound clips.
  • everypoet.com  A great site has famous poetry, as well as a board and archives for contemporary poets.
  • Teenage Poetry on the Web from Yahoo!  Many cool links of poetry sites put up by and for teenagers.
  • Mr. Geib's Favorite Poems  A few words on the most prized poems of one individual who lived during the late-20th/early 21st century.

EVALUATION

Your presentation will be evaluated according to the following criteria:

  • Did you explain why you chose this poem?  Explain what in it appeals to you?  
  • Did you say where you found it?  Tell who suggested it to you, if anyone?  
  • What elements of poetry does the poet employ?  What is the tone and form of the poem?  
  • What is poet trying to say in poem?  What is the theme(s)?
  • How can you communicate your passion and enthusiasm to your fellow students?  How can you explain poem to students so they can clearly understand what it is you love in it?  
  • Do you demonstrate your expertise in understanding poem?
  • During your presentation, what do you want students to understand?  What should they walk away remembering about your favorite poem?

Click here to see the rubric for this project.  Good luck!

THE HUMAN CONVERSATION

Poetry, the most lordly of all the writing arts, is one of the primary heritages of our species; in the very beginnings of human literacy, and long before that, men and women chanted their war poetry in ancient Greece, and communicated myth and history over campfires to their children.  The cadence of language and the music of words appeals to some primal part of the brain, and today in a computer-filled classroom in 21st century Ventura that is no different than three thousands years ago when small bands of humans fought to survive on the desolate plains of Central Asia.  Poetry is a large part of what it means to be human, and to examine closely and learn to love poetry is what links us to our ancestors; as T.S. Eliot asserted:

And what the dead had no speech for, when living,
They can tell you, being dead: the communication
Of the dead is tongued with the fire beyond the
language of the living.

A long dead poet sometime and somewhere in history has written a poem directly addressed to you, even if you didn't know it yet!  From the past the dead still speak, and what was most vital and "human" in their souls is retained in their poetry.  Will you take the time to listen to them?  Pause to hear their voices?

Poets across the millenniums have written powerfully and memorably about every topic under the sun.  Find and treasure the poems that will change and fortify your life.  Participate in the human conversation that started long before your birth and will continue long after you are dead, buried, and turned to dust.  The conversation of humanity goes on.  Will you not contribute with your own voice?


"Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world." 
Percy Bryce Shelley
FTHS  Ventura, CA     805.289.0023x1214     richard.geib@venturausd.org