. Athena's Books: My Class, Using a "Poetic Eye", and author Sarah Ockler
Monday, August 24, 2009

My Class, Using a "Poetic Eye", and author Sarah Ockler

Today was a great first day back at school! Summer vacation is over, the beach is gone, and it's back to the school desk. But, Twenty Boy Summer is still going strong. Read it soon!
The best part of going back to school at Med High? My creative writing class last period...all of the students seem to be really nice and unique individuals who are very much interested in helping one another become better writers. Even though the class seemed to go by pretty fast and was relatively stree free, it was nonetheless productive. We looked at a few poems in preparation for their first writing assignment and practiced reading and listining with a "poetic eye" and "poetic ear." You know, mention poetry to a bunch of teens and many of them will groan. Why is that? Well, my thinking is we pretty much kill poetry for them as teachere when all we do is read for meaning and analysis and literary technique. All those things are good, but poetry is so much more...it's about the aesthetic appeal, as well. It is not necessary to know what every line means. Sometimes it is more about taking the poem as a whole and appreciating its form and varied instances of artistic beauty and risk. So, that's what we did.

Here's an example...

"Tours" by C.D. Wright

A girl on the stairs listens to her father
Beat up her mother.
Doors bang.
She comes down in her nightgown.

The piano stands there in the dark
Like a boy with an orchid.

She plays what she can
Then she turns the lamp on.

Her mother's music is spread out
On the floor like brochures.

She hears her father
Running through the leaves.

The last black key
She presses stays down, makes no sound
Someone putting their tongue where their tooth had been.

What do you think? Tell me if some of these lines don't just simply stand out...look at the line "Like a boy with an orchid" or "Her mother's music spread out/ On the floor like brochures."

So, how do you read with a "poetic eye"? Look for lines or images with aesthic appeal (images that simply sound beautiful or arresting even without fully understanding the meaning) or with an unlikely comparison or form of figurative language. For instance...why use "Like a boy with an orchid"? How does the line relate to the experience of domestic violence as expressed by the speaker? Well, I don't fully know, but I know I like the image, and put together with the rest of the poem, it works. I wished I had come up with this line!

And, the "poetic ear"? You need to hear it outloud...the impact of the spoken work is phenomenal. If you can find an audio version of the poem, by all means, hear it. If not, at least read it outloud with care.

Want to hear "Tours"? It will blow you away. Listen here: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/16175

Thank you, guys, for listening to all my views on poetry...I'm just that excited to be teaching this class!

Don't forget to read Twenty Boy Summer if you haven't yet...and to go along with all this talk about creative writing, please check out the youtube video featuring the author's thoughts on the creative process for this novel. Want to be a fiction writer? Go into into the mind of a published YA author...Sarah Ockler. It's a really good video.