ALAN v28n3 - No Need to 'Duck, Run and Hide': Young Adult Poetry that Taps into You

Volume 28, Number 3
Spring/Summer 2001

No Need to "Duck, Run and Hide": Young Adult Poetry that Taps into You

Laura R. Lipsett

What Wrought Such Pain and Rare Pleasure?

He looked shocked. "That's poetry? I thought it had to rhyme." ... Many of these teachers had read Shakespeare and Keats, and had learned that writing was something for other people, certainly not for them.

Georgia Heard, poet, Writing Toward Home

Recently, in my English methods class, I took an informal survey, asking my students how they felt about poetry. This was conducted in light of various methods texts that state that most English teachers do not like poetry themselves and as a result teach very little of it, and then when doing so do a poor job of it, or if possible, do not teach it at all ( Andrews, 1991 ; Beach and Marshall, 1991 ; Burke, 1999 ; Flynn and McPhillips, 2000 ; Heard, 1999 ). The overwhelming majority of my methods students said that they did not like poetry, having had negative experiences with it in their pre-college and during-college lives and were not at all familiar with the breadth and sophistication available in young adult literature, let alone realized that there was such a genre as poetry written and compiled explicitly for the young adult audience.

Since I am an avid poetry reader and writer, interests cultivated only in my adult years, I've asked this question since I started teaching English methods courses in 1995. I continue to be surprised by my students' responses. My current students are traditional, in that their ages range from 22 to 24 years. One might assume that these young adults have been exposed by now to contemporary poetry and readings that have culled an interest and realization of its broad forms, rather than have conceded a profound distaste. Many of my students confessed to not studying contemporary poetry as part of their English majors, but as with their high school experiences, took required courses that included a portion of poetry, such as the history of American Literature I and II, British Literature I and II, Chaucer, Middle English Poets, and so forth. Their elective studies in Chicano/a, African American and Native American Literature, for them, consisted typically of novels and short stories. In reflecting particularly on young adult poetry read, one student remembered reading "Jabberwocky" in her middle school textbook anthology. She said she could remember nothing memorable about this piece other than its title.

I've long been a believer in a "pedagogy of persistence" and viewed my students' pained expressions and utterances as a gauntlet thrown down, and decided to forge ahead with various how's and why's and perhaps not's of teaching poetry in middle and high school classrooms. I juggle book talks on a diverse range of poetry collections that might appeal to them as well as to middle and high school students. I continue to hold firm faith that such poetry collections might make poetry so appealing that the term no longer remains a word that otherwise might inspire students and sometimes their teachers "to duck and run for cover into the woods." I present reasons for teaching poetry to adolescents and descriptions of recommended poetry collections in the paragraphs that follow.


There are multiple reasons why the word poetry may conjure such feelings of anxiety and revulsion. Various scholars of poetry (some of whom are poets themselves) have attributed these to certain critical literary theories and methodologies, to mandated school curriculum and tests, and to teachers themselves who may not be readers or writers of poetry ( Andrews, 1991 ; Dias, 1987 ; Flynn and McPhillips, 2000 ; Fox, 1995 ). Perhaps poetry reading and study in middle and high schools, like much of our literary legacy, has been determined by New Critical and Structuralist approaches that place the teacher (or the textbook) as the conveyer of the poem's "singular meaning" and the bearer of the "tools" that a reader must use to understand as well as to appreciate the poem's "mysteries" that may seem locked - or not locked. (There are always students who believe they "get it," but then discover what they got just wasn't "it." I confess to being one of those students in high school and in my undergraduate career. Poetry engagement before that had meant out-of-school childhood readings of nursery rhymes and my bestowed legacy of Robert Louis Stevenson's A Child's Garden of Verses ; and I knew for sure that I caught those.)

Some teachers may perceive poetry study as a cultural literacy chore to be completed with clenched teeth and forced admiration for its high art literary promises. English language arts teachers may want to teach poetry but are not confident that they have the language to explore it successfully, or the means to assess reading or writing it effectively. Poetry study at the secondary level often is characterized by memorization of rhyming patterns, definitions of meter, and objective test items, such as the differences between metaphor and simile ( Beach and Marshall, 1991 ). While an understanding of the formal elements and structure of poetry may be necessary for its full appreciation, these can also make poetry reading deadening to the adolescent reader who already approaches the genre with trepidation ( Beach and Marshall, 1991 ). The "Era of Standardization" in which we currently are living may also discourage teachers from being literary explorers with their students. Standardized tests often focus on genre, setting, plot, etc. Few steps taken forward, and perhaps even more steps taken backward.

Students often are asked to read poems in which they've little or no interest. This especially is problematic when adolescents are reading from the traditional canon in which the subject matter may tap into emotions and experiences beyond their range of years ( Beach and Marshall, 1991 ). Poems that are not inviting or accessible may discourage adolescents from reading them even once ( Beach and Marshall, 1991 ; Tsujimoto, 1988 ). In general, research shows that middle school students do not read much for pleasure, read less than they did in their earlier years, and continue to develop negative feelings about reading as they move through the middle grades ( Ivey and Broaddus, 2000 ). A decline continues in high school, aggravated further by increasing extracurricular involvements, including employment outside of school. Some studies suggest that contemporary adult society is largely a nonreading society and suggest that people continue to read less as they grow older ( Bushman and Bushman, 1997 ). The likelihood of not picking up poetry collections in or outside the school classroom seems inevitable when faced with these realities.

Contexts need to be created that will allow students to function as successful readers and writers in recognition of the different ways each student goes about reading and writing a poem. Some teachers who are unfamiliar with poetry or are not readers and writers of poetry themselves may also believe the most reluctant and struggling readers especially will not like any poetry. However, there is a richness in YA poetry that even the most reluctant and struggling readers might find engaging. A former graduate student of mine, "Max", as a first-year teacher, decided to introduce Mel Glenn's Jump Ball: A Basketball Season in Poems ( 1997 ) to a student in his seventh and eighth-grade remedial reading class. This particular eighth-grade student was placed in Max's classroom as this student's previous English teacher believed him to be a poor reader, one without the skills to master the required textbook anthology. Max decided to make his reading classroom a non-textbook rich environment and conducted several book talks and engaged his students in the readings of various young adult texts (novels, short stories and poetry) that were required readings or were mentioned in my college young adult literature course. Max's students, while he was gaining familiarity with various poetry collections, provided him with feedback regarding whether or not these texts were "good reads" for them. Many students asked for more of these same authors' titles. In particular, this eighth-grade student read Glenn's basketball poems in less than two days: He was surprised that they weren't like "real" poetry he read in his English classroom.

A Case for Poetry

There are many reasons for the case for poetry, including these: (1) poetry increases one's sense of knowledge about language and visual literacy; (2) poetry contributes to the affective education of students; (3) poetry acts as a preserver of felt experiences; (4) poetry suggests flow and momentum while at the same time provides a pattern and shaping of experience, setting expectations that are sometimes fulfilled and sometimes subverted; (5) poetry teaches its readers that ambiguity is a part of life - that life is tentative, exploratory and even vague and that this is okay though it can be uncomfortable; and (6) poetry gives pleasure and is capable of generating laughter as well as feelings of well-being. Joseph I. Tsujimoto ( 1988 ) says that he teaches poetry because poetry:

gives students a way of crystallizing and publicly expressing private emotions that otherwise might be impossible to communicate.... it persuades students to hear and recognize the private feelings of others...Poetry extends our experience and broadens our consciousness, making us aware of other people's points of view, other people's visions of history, the cosmos, and God.... its most practical function: to humanize and elevate our race as a civilized species, cultivating sensitive, open-minded human beings-which is the true vocation for which we are preparing our students. (xiv)

Heard ( 1999 ) states, "The kids I have taught have helped me to see that the real lessons poetry teaches are much larger than counting five-seven-five on our fingers, or thinking of the best rhyming word for moon . The real lessons poetry can teach are what I call life lessons" (xvii). The very nature of poetry can teach teachers and students about emotional literacy, the kind that both Howard Gardner, in The Unschooled Mind: How Children Think and How Schools Should Teach ( 1991 ), and Daniel Goleman, in Emotional Intelligence: Why It can Matter More than IQ ( 1995 ) contend to be as important as the math and verbal intelligences that are valued most in schools and are proclaimed by many prophets of standardized curriculum and testing: The literacy of knowing and managing one's feelings and understanding and getting along with others.

Young adult poetry includes poems written explicitly for adolescents and includes adult poetry compiled for young adults. It is poetry with harmony as well as cacophony, but still it is music that can be heard and can inspire movement. It is poetry that puts fire in hands and hearts. Poet Galway Kinnell states, "When I found the world of poets, I realized I was not so odd after all" (Kinnell cited in Rosenberg, 1996 , 87). Virginia Monseau ( 1996 ) says adolescence is a period that "many of us would just as soon forget . . . the time in which we first asked ourselves important questions, the answers for which we continue to search even today . . . that forgetting is a mistake; turn your back on the source of your question and lose much of what you have to gain finding an answer" (ix). Young adult poetry is about many periods in our lives and in the lives of others. This poetry can help young adult readers to realize that they are not alone in their thoughts and experiences and that play and multiple perspectives are integral to understanding what makes us human and what inspires us to think and act in the ways that we do.

Music for Ears and Feet

". . . the art which uses words as both speech and song to reveal the realities that the senses record, the feelings salute, the mind perceives, and the imagination orders."

Babette Deutsch, poet

"Poetry has historically been defined as particular ways of organizing thought through sound, and its music remains the point where any good poem begins."

Jane Hirshfield, poet

Poems do what they do through the music of words. "Poetry has historically been defined as particular ways of organizing thought through sound, and its music remains the point where any good poem begins" ( Hirshfield 7 ). The music of language can provide its readers with a sense of connectiveness as well as dissonance in terms of feelings and experiences. Every poem begins in language awake to its own connections -language that hears itself and what is around it, sees itself and what is around it, looks back at those who look into its gaze and knows more perhaps even than we do about who and what we are ( Hirshfield, 1997 ). She explains, "The repetition and changes of a poem's prosody . . . Unfolding their tensions and resolutions, a poem's sounds make of experience a shapeliness, with beginning, middle, and end. And under every poem's music, whether in form or free verse, lies the foundational heartbeat, its drum and assurance accompanying us through our lives (8-9). Hirshfield believes a poem's music affects us whether or not we make it conscious and that to study its sounds is music for both ears and feet:

Poetry's work is the clarification and magnification of being. Each time we enter its word-woven and musical invocation, we give ourselves over to a different mode of knowing: to poetry's knowing, and to the increase of existence it brings, unlike any other. ( Hirshfield 1997 , vii).

If poems are the music of life, then music play on. Several recent young adult poetry collections reverberate in the existence of every day things: in conflicting cultural identities and the languages of literacy, to courtships that develop over time in harmony and cacophony, to searching for one's place in the world, to nursery rhymes in contemporary times, to the music of streets and neighborhoods, to puzzles and mysteries that hint for answers, to multiple voices umbrellaed under the same expansive sky. The following poetry collections present experiences that rock and revolutionize, sometimes working together and sometimes falling apart.

Lori M. Carlson's edited collection, Cool Salsa: Bilingual Poems on Growing Up Latino in the United States ( 1994 ), has been ascribed "hot has jalapenos and as cool as jazz." This particular collection includes thirty-six voices that resonate the sights, sounds and smells of Latino/a culture in the United States, celebrating the tones, rhythms and sounds of what it means "to live a (cultural and linguistic) double life." These poems are about families and parties, insults and sad memories, and glory and pain. Poets included hail from Cuba, California, Mexico, Michigan, Nicaragua, and New York, all capturing the various accents and experiences of teenagers, given in their original language and in English translation. ". . . to understand me/you have to know Spanish/feel it in the blood of your soul . . ."("Learning English," 17).

Well-known poet and poetry anthologist Arnold Adoff has compiled a soulful, heart-pounding and feet-tapping collection Slow Dance Heart Break Blues ( 1995 ). These poems are sung from inside the hearts and heads of adolescents in love and out of love. These poems are visually interesting and reflect the speakers' sentiments. They quake and quiver with teenage angst and read more like the blues with both patent sorrows and joys.

Another well-known poet and poetry anthologist, Liz Rosenberg, has put together a collection of poetry to help adolescents cross the world's narrow bridges without being afraid to fall down. "Emily Dickinson believed poems to be earthshattering when one felt physically as if the top of one's head were taken off" ( Rosenberg, 1998 ). These poems are a selection of passion and yearning and of birth and death. They both hurt and heal. The various poets speak of love and feelings that bind us to others and may lead us to new feelings and experiences. Rosenberg ( 1998 ) states that:

I believe that all great poetry has its own kind of music, its own rhythm . . . People often turn to poetry in peak moments - moments of extreme joy, or sorrow, or confusion. Here again, it seems to me that poetry and adolescence make a perfect pair. Many teenagers write poetry, sometimes for the first and only time in their lives. It is a form dedicated to intensity. (xi-xii).

This collection is organized chronologically by the poets' birthdates; their voices resound from all over the globe - from ancient China and Persia to Russia during the Stalinist terrors to Japan, El Salvador, and America today. Some poems are dark and others break open with joy, but all seem to speak to each other over vast spaces of time and place. Rosenberg also includes biographical notes on each poet and their poetic forms.

Invisible Ladder ( 1996 ) is another collection edited by Rosenberg. Rosenberg's motive in this collection is to make contemporary poems written for adults accessible to a broader readership. For this anthology she asked poets to write about the links between poetry and their childhoods. Included are photos that show how they looked when they were young and how they look today. This collection offers its own ladder for readers to climb:

Young people deserve great poetry; great poetry deserves young readers. Because I did not find in any anthology of poems the book I was hoping for, I made my own. There are many fine books of children's poems for children-Shel Silverstein's and Dr. Seuss's are among our best-but this thing, "children's poetry," is its own kind of creature. It is not the only kind of poetry there is . . . The poetry I liked best as a child . . . was poetry that grew along with me. I loved Robert Frost and Carl Sandburg, Edna St. Vincent Millay and, a little later on, Sylvia Plath and Robert Lowell-and I still do. I think I needed, even then, to know that real poets were alive and well, and writing in the world. ( Rosenberg 3 ).

The Inner-City Mother Goose ( 1996 ) are Mother Goose rhymes that Eve Merriam re-wrote in 1969. Following the old tradition of rhymes that portray social ills, Merriam's rhymes depict grim realities of inner-city life, including crime, drug abuse, unemployment, inadequate housing, insufficient public transportation and pollution. Razor-sharp verses read with a beat to be rapped with a voice of force and knowledge. Nikki Giovanni writes, in the introduction, "Eve Merriam took the spirit of Mother Goose . . . to give voice to those who were being silenced . . . She had the moral indignation of a just cause . . . Agony should not be ignored . . . to allow words to carry some healing . . . We are all a part of this civilization" (2-3).

Gary Soto's Neighborhood Odes ( 1992 ) is a celebration of life in a Mexican-American neighborhood that is like all neighborhoods, filled with a variety of people, some you know better than others and some not at all. He writes of the pleasures of sprinklers, snow cones, trips to the park, new tennis shoes, tortillas and the library. There's joy in wedding music, in neighborhood pets, and in fireworks in the street after dark. Soto has written several young adult novels that read with a poetic beat that include Jesse (1994), Baseball in April and other Stories (1990), Living Up the Street (1985). He is an acclaimed poet for adult and young adult audiences whose words resonate of Spanish language and song and often are autobiographical, poignant and humorous.

Angela Johnson's The Other Side: Shorter Poems ( 1998 ) won the Coretta Scott King Award. Johnson has written numerous acclaimed young adult novels and picture books. This collection of poems takes readers on a journey back in time told from the perspective of a young woman who recounts growing up in Shorter, Alabama - the people and the landscape of her childhood and adolescence. Her narrator looks back on the social customs and politics of the south and the reasons her family relocated north. Her book begins with "Preface," which includes theselines: "My poetry doesn't sing the song of the sonnets, but then/ I sing a different kind of music - / which is what it's all about anyway" (xii-xiii). "Red Dirt" begins the journey: "Got me some red Alabama dirt I keep/ on the bathroom shelf in a heart-shaped/ bottle" (1).

The Complete Poems to Solve ( 1993 ) is a collection by well-known children's poet May Swenson. This compilation invites readers to solve riddles that describe an unnamed subject, while others focus on a particular subject or topic. These poems encourage engagement in the poetic process and encourage adolescents to view the world in a new way. This collection is an exercise for perceptions and imaginations. Many of these poems were published in a previous volume, Poems to Solve , and have been included in this newer 72- poem work that represents a sizable portion of Swenson's body of poetry. Another collection by May Swenson is coedited with R. R. Knudson, American Sports Poems ( 1988 ). The subjects in these poems include some of this country's greatest athletes: Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson, Mickey Mantle, Pete Rose, Babe Didrikson, Patrick Ewing, and Muhammad Ali. Other subjects include various professional and college teams. Musical, doggerel and sometimes eloquent sonnets, these poems float like a butterfly and other times sting like a bee. Some of the poets included are Carl Sandburg, Elizabeth Bishop, Maxine Kumin, Anne Sexton, John Updike, and Shel Silverstein. The poems celebrate ecstasy, pain, dreams and memories that have made sports an American obsession. A poem by R. Ernest Holmes, "Black Lady in an Afro Hairdo Cheers for Cassius," resonates the rhythm of the man who became known as Muhammad Ali, and begins with "Honeyhued beauty, you are:/in your gleaming white shorts,/gladiator shoes . . . " (144-145).

This Same Sky: A Collection of Poems from Around the World ( 1992 ) is a collection by poet and another well-known poetry anthologist Naomi Shihab Nye, who wrote the Newbery Honor novel, Habibi (1997). This is a collection of 129 voices telling of their lives, loves and losses. They write from apart, but their words-under the same sky-join them. Nye divides the poems into sections: Words and Silences, Dreams and Dreamers, Families, This Earth and Sky in Which We Live, Losses, and Human Mysteries. The poets represent 68 countries from around the world, including Latvia, Israel, Denmark, Mexico, Indonesia, Italy, Palestine, Taiwan, Kuwait, South Korea, and Kenya. Nye includes contributors' notes as well as a map that depicts the poets' countries of origin and that illuminates "this same sky".

Fire in Hands and Heart

"Poetry is language that tells us, through a more or less emotional reaction, something that cannot be said."

Edward Arlington Robinson, poet

". . . poems can be seen as parts of conversations and as elements in argument; they can become the most political of actions, a moving outward of the individual explore, discover and change the world . . ."

Michael Rosen, poet

Poetry is a way of knowing. Poetry can be wittier and funnier than any kind of writing; it can tell us about the world we live in through words we can't forget. It can be tough, and it can be tender. It can be fat, and it can be lean. It can preach a short sermon, or give a long thought. Sometimes the shorter the poem, the longer the thought. Poems ask for a different reading than just reading to oneself. They must be heard, and they must be felt. Several young adult poetry collections are like fire in hands and heart - a fire that gives off the heat and glow of finding one's place in this world, of considering different perspectives and the politics of gender, of what it means to be female in all her glory and strength, of the beauty of seemingly ordinary things, of what it means to be alone but not alone, of the need to be yourself despite pressures that would you otherwise.

Poet and well-known anthologist Paul B. Janeczko's The Music of What Happens: Poems that Tell Stories ( 1988 ) is a varied collection. Contemporary poets tell about ghosts, angels, lovers, dreamers, young Civil War soldiers, classroom clowns, stepchildren, senior citizens, grandchildren, kids at summer camp, and much more. These are the events that make up lives. This collection begins with a line by Jared Carter that hits the central purpose of this collection, "The purpose of poetry is to tell us about life" (1). Another Janeczko collection, Looking for Your Name ( 1993 ), is an exploration of the conflicts that make a statement about life in America and life in the heart. Janeczko has divided this collection of multiple voices and experiences into two parts: "In the Lonely Games No One Sees the Wonderful Things You Do," and "America, It's Hard to Get Your Attention". The first section contains such poems as "I Have Some Questions about Life on Earth," "The Nuclear Accident," "White Trash," "Why I Quit Dancing Lessons," and "Ice Hockey". The second includes tales of patriotics, blue collar skills and no jobs, and beauty defined: "The Market Economy," "What Holds Us Back," and "Eye of the Beholder."

Naomi Shihab Nye and Paul B. Janeczko co-selected the collection I Feel a Little Jumpy Around You ( 1996 ), that pairs a wide range of his and her voices that offer lively exchanges and contrasting images: views on a first kiss, what boys and girls can do, on brothers and sisters, parents and children, how men view women (and vice versa), on creativity, and on romance. This collection is told in unison and in opposing voices. It is meant to inspire readers to think about perspectives from opposite sexes and about language use and life. An accompaniment to that is Carol Ann Duffy's I Wouldn't Thank You for a Valentine: Poems for Young Feminists ( 1992 ) which includes a variety of women's voices from around the world. The voices are angry, funny, tender, dramatic, conflictual, self-mocking, speak of failure and betrayal and are voices that play with language, roles and stereotypes.

Ralph Fletcher's poetry collections, Room Enough for Love (1998) and Ordinary Things: Poems from a Walk in Early Spring ( 1997 ), are plain speaking, accessible and fresh without cliches. Room Enough for Love is a compilation of two poetry collections, I Am Wings: Poems About Love (1994) and Buried Alive: The Elements of Love (1996). Fletcher states, "My best poems seem to draw on the deepest, most profound experiences of my life. Falling in and out of love was like that for me. Those shy glances, secret notes, breakups, crushes and kisses left indelible marks on my soul" (back cover). Room Enough for Love is about exploring the experience of love and includes such poems entitled with the heat in hands and heart aptly felt: "First Look," "Crush Blush," and "Falling Out". This collection reads like a relationship between two people and the effects of outsiders' perceptions, beginning with feelings of fresh awareness and moving to comfortable familiarity and reasons not to continue. Fletcher's Ordinary Things ( 1997 ) is a collection of poems about physical and spiritual discoveries from taking a walk in early spring. Poems recall sights and feelings experienced on a walk leaving home, entering the woods, and then returning home. It's about really seeing for the first time what we've been looking at all along, and about walking and its cleansing properties: "I walk to wash the dead air/ from the branches of my lungs . . . ("Walking," 48).

Pierced by a Ray of Sun ( 1995 ) is a collection of poems about when we feel different and alone and about what it means to be human and sensitive to ourselves. Ruth Gordon has selected poetry by various authors that reveals both the universality of feelings of loneliness and alienation and the universality of stresses and means of survival. Poems included are "Envy," "Beating Up Billy Murphy in Fifth Grade," "My Parents," "Lies," and "Fear".

English teacher and multiple award-winning poet Mel Glenn has penned several free-verse poetry collections. Glenn has stated that his poetry inspirations are derived from the struggles and aspirations of those he teaches and observes as a teacher in Brooklyn, New York. Previously mentioned was Jump Ball ( 1997 ) which portrays the Tigers, Tower High School's basketball team in their champion season. This book may appeal to adolescents who like poetry and sports and to those who don't like either. The reader gets to know starting player with NBA aspirations Garrett Jones and the rest of the team and their families, their coach and team manager, their friends and girlfriends, their teachers, and the fans and reporters who cover their games. A wide range of emotions, commitments, relationships, and home situations are presented from a multitude of perspectives. Poems are humorous, insightful, and filled with pathos. One example is "Dennis Carleton," which is told from the perspective of a star-player who failed to show to practice the day before a game: ". . . It was Coach with no words to say/ Who had spoken loudest of all" (100).

Foreign Exchange ( 1999 ) and Split Image (2000) are Glenn's most recent collections. In the tradition of Who Killed Mr. Chippendale? ( 1996 ) and The Taking of Room 114: A Hostage Drama in Poems , Foreign Exchange is a mystery told in poems. As with Jump Ball ( 1997 ), urban Tower High School is at its core. Teens from this city school spend a weekend in a rural town and face small-town prejudices and suspicions that "city kids mean crime and drugs." Each urban teenager is paired with a rural teen, resulting in interesting and comic situations. When a local girl is found murdered, the townspeople point fingers at an African- American boy who danced with her at the foreign exchange dance. Glenn explores stereotypes and prejudice and delves into the inner lives of teens and townspeople. Split Image (2000) is about the hottest girl in school, newcomer and Chinese-American Laura Li. These poems are about what happens when one teenage girl is denied the freedom to determine her own identity and feels possessed by the perceptions of others. As with his other collections, Glenn weaves multiple voices and perspectives into one fabric. This collection is about what might happen when we allow others to define our lives and how outward impressions are just that and rarely tell the true story of the real you. In "Laura Li," the reader is brought inside her longing to be herself and her realistic acceptance of others' views: "People see who or what they want anyway" (107).

Finding What You've Always Had

" Poetry is a response to the daily necessity of getting the world right."

Wallace Stevens, poet

"These poems have come a great distance to find you."

Edward Hirsch, How to Read a Poem and Fall In Love with Poetry

In Finding What You Didn't Lose: Expressing Your Truth and Creativity Through Poem-Making ( 1995 ), certified poetry therapist John Fox contends that everyone has a natural inclination to express themselves through the language of poetry: "It's there waiting for you to find what you never really lost" (xv). Heard ( 1999 ) believes that poetry, like bread, is for everyone. She is convinced that we all have poetry inside of us and that we just don't recognize it when we hear it in our students or in ourselves:

Sometimes it disguises itself, it doesn't rhyme, it doesn't sound like a limerick, so we have to look for it in unlikely places . . . When we speak in a voice that's exclusively ours, that's natural, when we're not trying to be anything other than ourselves, that's the stuff of poetry. (xv)

Poetry seems to be appearing in more public places. Even in Wyoming, our local coffeehouses (of which we have four in a town of around 29,000) have featured poetry readings, many of which are open mike to original poets. Some of my colleagues from across the university have shared their interest in David Whyte, poet and poetry consultant who provides professional development to major corporations speaking of the importance of employees' needing to nurture their inner lives and creative abilities. The September 4, 2000, Upfront (a news magazine for teens published by The New York Times and distributed to schools) featured "Poetry that Rocks," a recount of the third annual National Youth Poetry Slam held the Spring of 2000 in San Francisco. Representing a wide range of ethnic and racial voices, slam poetry (poets) has been boosted in part by the popularity of rap music and the boom in stand-up comics on both stage and TV sitcom. Slamming is a lively amalgam of original poetry recited in solo, duet or multiple-voice formats that can be considered performance art, hip-hop concert, and Olympic figure skating, replete with judges holding numerical score cards ( "Poetry that Rocks," 2000 ). One observer said watching others perform "showed me that poetry could be something that lifts an audience to another place, like jazz or salsa or dance" (28).

Works Cited

Andrews , Richard. The Problem with Poetry. Philadelphia: Open University Press, 1991.

Beach , Richard W., and James D. Marshall. "Teaching Poetry." Teaching Literature in the Secondary School. Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace, 1991. 379-405.

Burke , Jim. "Teaching Reading: The Continuum of Possibilities." The English Teacher's Companion. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 1999. 16-51.

Bushman , John H. and Kay Parks Bushman. Using Young Adult Literature in the English Classroom. 2nd ed. New York: Merrill, 1997.

Dias , Patrick. Making Sense of Poetry: Patterns in the Process. Ottawa: The Canadian Council of Teachers of English, 1987.

Flynn , Nick, and Shirley McPhillips. "A Compass Through These Waters." A Note Slipped Under the Door: Teaching from Poems We Love. Portland, ME: Stenhouse, 2000. 1-11.

Fox , John. Finding What You Didn't Lose: Expressing Your Truth and Creativity Through Poem-Making. New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam, 1995.

Gardner , Howard. The Unschooled Mind: How Children Think and How Schools Should Teach. New York: BasicBooks, 1991.

Goleman , Daniel. Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More than IQ. New York: Bantam, 1995.

Heard , Georgia. Awakening the Heart: Exploring Poetry in Elementary and Middle School. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 1999.

Heard , Georgia. Writing Toward Home: Tales and Lessons to Find Your Way. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 1995.

Hirsch , Edward. How to Read a Poem and Fall in Love with Poetry. New York: Harvest Books, 2000.

Hirshfield , Jane. Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry. New York: HarperCollins, 1997.

Ivey , Gay, and Karen Broaddus. "Tailoring the Fit: Reading Instruction and Middle School Readers." The Reading Teacher 54.1 (2000): 68-77.

Kinnell , Galway. "Childhood Music." The Invisible Ladder: An Anthology of Contemporary American Poems for Young Readers. Ed. Liz Rosenberg. New York: Henry Holt and Co., 1996. 85-87.

Monseau , Virginia R. (1996). Responding to Young Adult Literature. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 1996.

"Poetry that Rocks." Upfront 133.1 (2000): 28-30.

Tsujimoto , Joseph I. "Students and Teachers." Teaching Poetry Writing to Adolescents. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English, 1988. 1-7.

YA Poetry Collections Cited

Adoff , Arnold. Slow Dance Heart Break Blues. New York: Lothrop, Lee & Shepherd, 1995.

Carlson , Lori M., ed. Cool Salsa: Bilingual Poems on Growing Up Latino in the United States. New York: Henry Holt and Co., 1994.

Duffy , Carol Ann, ed. I Wouldn't Thank You for a Valentine: Poems for Young Feminists. New York: Henry Holt and Co., 1992.

Fletcher , Ralph. Ordinary Things: Poems from a Walk in Early Spring. New York: Atheneum, 1997.

Fletcher , Ralph. Room Enough for Love. New York: Aladdin, 1998.

Glenn , Mel. Foreign Exchange: A Mystery in Poems. New York: Morrow, 1999.

Glenn , Mel. Jump Ball: A Basketball Season in Poems. New York: Lodestar, 1997.

Glenn , Mel. The Taking of Room 114: A Hostage Drama in Poems, Foreign Exchange. New York: Lodestar,1997.

Glenn , Mel. Who Killed Mr. Chippendale? New York: Lodestar, 1996.

Gordon , Ruth, ed. Pierced by a Ray of Sun: Poems about the Times We Feel Alone. New York: HarperCollins, 1995.

Janeczko , Paul B., ed. Looking for Your Name: A Collection of Contemporary Poems. New York: Orchard, 1993.

Janeczko , Paul B., ed. The Music of What Happens: Poems that Tell Stories. New York: Orchard, 1988.

Johnson , Angela. The Other Side: Shorter Poems. New York: Orchard, 1998.

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Laura R. Lipsett is an Assistant Professor and the Coordinator of English Education at the University of Wyoming, Laramie, Wyoming. She teaches English, literacy, and interdisciplinary courses.

Reference Citation: Lipsett, Laura R. (2001) "No Need to "Duck, Run and Hide": Young Adult Poetry that Taps into You" The ALAN Review , Volume 28, Number 3, p. 58.