When I was young, my book Aunt gave me Nicholas Knock and Other People and I read it innumberable times. In university when discussing rhythm in Oral Narrative, I shared Nicholas Knock with my class and when I'm out biking, even today, I still hear,
Nicholas Knock was a venturesome boy.
He lived at number eight.
He went for walks in the universe
and generally got home late.
reverberating around my head to the rhythm of my pumping legs. That poem has never left me.
This beautiful, political, award-winning book bombed. Of course, a couple liked it, but I tried to figure out what went wrong. These were readers. We have tackled some pretty hefty books over our fourteen years. What was it about a Young Adult novel in verse that was inaccessible?
In listening to our discussion, I discovered it. They were afraid of it . They said they didn't know where to pause. They weren't sure how they were supposed to read it. They asked why it didn't rhyme. They didn't know about free verse poetry. No wonder they couldn't enjoy it. I felt like I had given them the unsuitable brick book we are told never to give our students. There were a couple that liked it, and I certainly did, so what was the difference.
With only the exposure to the "gruesome poemicide of poetry" thati most of us received at school with the analysis of literary devices and meaning of important poems, how could we enjoy it. He also stated it wasn't the fault of those teachers, they probably had been taught the same way. He explained we need to ground our students in the enchantment of poetry.
He inspired me to explore the idea of teaching poetry in the poetry itself. I've always wanted to write a sestina, so here it goes!
Inspired by Dennis Lee’s keynote speech at Reading For the Love Of It 2015
For me poetry is beauty,
I love the mix of words
Different order, different meaning
Playing with the sound
To create a feeling
Exploring a topic of passion
People without exposure to the passion
Can worry too much to see the beauty
Tangled in punctuation, left feeling
Scared of the words
Afraid they’ll miss the sound
Positve, they’ve confused the meaning
To help them find meaning
Enunciate your passion
out loud so they hear the sound
Repeat again and again to appreciate beauty
Build a love of words
Wrap your tongue around the feeling
Comfort in that feeling
And rhythm can move one on to meaning
Words on top of words
Reading a lot aloud accustoms ears to sound
So that poems never even said, a sound
Inside their head, creates a gut feeling,
A direct pause, recognition of beauty
Ability to trust the discovery of meaning
Perhaps, to find their own passion
Reflected in the words
Of others, building connection through words
Learning that in pain we all make the same sound
Just as in passion
Empathy in life can be a feeling
Of not being alone, creating meaning
Seeing all around us the beauty
Some will find beauty in their own words
Some will create meaning, playing with sounds
Exploring their feeling, finding their passion
S. Cole Feb 2015
Thank you, Dennis Lee, for what you've given me and thank you for creating a new book of poetry which will help bring new readers into a world of enchantment.