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Sarah Kortemeier on Poetry Performance

Two factors contribute to the quality of your student performance:

#1: Energy - your voice energy should be coming from your gut and be physically pushed out to the audience.

#2: Close attention to the text - You have to listen to the text as you speak it. 

When you listen to the text, you are in the moment.  Do NOT ask your students to memorize the delivery of the performance; it won't be honest or believable. The performance shouldn't be exactly the same each time. Rather, by listening to themselves in the moment, they will respond organically and discover the poem anew each time.

When you are doing a close reading with the text, make sure you don't ask them to generalize the mood of the poem.  A generalized mood will make for a generalized performance. Instead, take the poem line by line, figure out what the most important words are in each sentence and how they should be spoken.

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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

POL #4: A Difficult Poem

These are responses from our Poetry Out Loud professional development discussion on the POL rubric category "Difficulty." Please comment with your own ideas about what makes for a difficult poem! This is #4 in our POL series. Other POL discussion threads include subjectivity of judging, what makes a good poetry recitation, and choosing a poem to recite.

Poetry Recitation: What makes for a "difficult" poem?

  • Length
  • Are we talking about difficult to memorize or difficult to perform?
  • Irregular meter and lack of rhyme (to memorize) 
  • Regular meter and rhyme (to perform)--for example, "The Jabberwocky"--how do you perform this poem well?
  • How inaccessible the the poem is. Related question regarding inaccessibility: Are you talking about diction and syntax? Or do you mean a 15-year-old girl trying to get into the mind of a 70-year-old man?

Please comment with your ideas about what makes for a difficult poem.

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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

POL #3: Choosing a poem to recite

These are responses from our Poetry Out Loud professional development discussion on how choosing a poem can determine the success of a recitation. Please comment with your own ideas! Other POL discussion threads include subjectivity of judging and what makes a good poetry recitation?

How does the poem chosen reflect or determine the success of the recitation?

  • There seem to be waves of students choosing similar poems each year.
  • But it's really important to let the students choose their own poems; they have so little choice about what they read at school, and this is a chance for them to select something to which they might really connect.
  • It's important to expose kids to a whole range of poems so they know what's out there.  Also, they need to see the difference between poems on a page and spoken poems.
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Monday, November 15, 2010

POL #2: Judging and Subjectivity

These are responses from our Poetry Out Loud professional development discussion on judging and subjectivity issues. Please comment with your own ideas!

How do you and your students grapple with issues of subjectivity in the judging process?

  • The performances you like aren't always the ones that win--the numbers on the rubric dictate who wins.
  • Conflict of interest--teaching/coaching vs. judging.  It's much easier to just be a teacher and coach than have to be a teacher, coach and judge.
  • The judges struggle with the subjectivity of the rubric categories--each can interpret differently, for example, "Level of Difficulty"--what makes for a difficult poem? Is it length? Is it irregular meter and lack of rhyme? Is it how inaccessible the writing of the poem is? 
  • This issue of subjectivity often is an adult conflict rather than a student conflict.
  • The new required categories of poems help increase the level of sophistication of the poems chosen. (Make sure to check the list--POL has retired many poems this year!)
  • The judges may need time to "warm up" - the people who went first consistently didn't didn't do as well.  Maybe this year we should have a few past winners start first to warm up the judges?
  • There needs to be diversity on the judging panel.
  • First time judging is really hard.
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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

POL #1: What makes a good poetry recitation?

These are responses from our Poetry Out Loud professional development discussion on what makes a good poetry recitation. Please comment with your own ideas!

  • Having [the POL] rubric is very helpful.  There are clearly lineated guidelines and categories for which students can practice.
  • Students have to have a connection to the poem.  It can't just be any poem.  The student understanding the poem is really important to the performance.
  • The student has to "own" it--tell it like their story.
  • Poetry recitations very different than poetry readings (by poet).  The student has to bring it to life but can't over-do it (with gestures, etc.)
  • You have to break down the line to discover where the emphasis feels right
  • Force yourself to stand still in front of a mirror and pay attention to where your body wants to move--then work in the (subtle) gesture later.
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Monday, November 1, 2010

Ballistics and Other Resources for Bringing Billy Collins to Students

by Julie SwarstadBallistics by Billy Collins

Born in 1941, Billy Collins was Poet Laureate of the United States from 2001-2003.  He has published eight collections of poetry, including Sailing Alone Around the Room (Random House 2001), The Trouble with Poetry (Random House 2005), and most recently Ballistics (Random House 2008).  Collins is the recipient of numerous awards including Poetry's 1994 Poet of the Year Award and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York Foundation for the Arts.  He is currently a Distinguished Professor at Lehman College at the City University of New York.

Collins will be reading for the UA Poetry Center's 50th Anniversary Celebration at Centennial Hall on the University of Arizona campus on Sunday, November 7th at 3 p.m.  Tickets are available through UA Presents.

Billy Collins has been called "America's Most Popular Poet" by Time Magazine, reflecting the enormous appeal his work has for a variety of audiences.  Ballistics, his latest collection, is a great choice for introducing students to this former Poet Laureate's work. 

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Monday, October 25, 2010

Language and Representation of the Holocaust

by Bryan Davis

Holocaust Education Teacher InserviceBryan Davis is the Director of Holocaust Education at the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona.

What words did victims of the Holocaust use to attempt to represent their experiences during the war?  They were faced with the unthinkable challenge of realizing (depending on when they wrote) that what they wrote would be used as a marker of their place individually, and the Jewish place collectively, in history, as they were being systematically annihilated and that at the same time, words were inadequate for representing the horrors they experienced.

Hélène Berr was a twenty-one year old student in the English Studies Department at the Sorbonne when, in 1942, she began keeping a diary in her home in avenue Elisee-Reclus in German occupied Paris.  Hélène came from an affluent family, she was well read in British literature, especially the Romantic poets, and she was a gifted amateur violinist.  Hélène's diary served shifting and overlapping purposes for her during the time she kept it from April 1942-February 1944.  At times Hélène hoped the diary would provide a message to her fiancé Jean who had fled France to join the resistance, while increasingly, as the persecutions around her grew closer and more brutal, she hoped to use the diary to "tell the story."  On October 10, 1943 she wrote:

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Thursday, October 7, 2010

Interacting with Natasha Tretheway's Native Guard

by Timothy DykeNative Guard by Natasha Tretheway

Timothy Dyke is a first year Masters student at the University of Arizona in creative writing. From 1992 to the spring of 2010, he lived in Honolulu, Hawaii and taught English to high school students at Punahou school. He serves as an Education Intern at the Poetry Center.

Visual art can be a safe and engaging entry point into poetry for young learners.  Students who become confused when asked to say what a poem means can feel a sense of relief and eagerness if asked to choose a crayon that matches the "color" of a poem, or when invited to draw a picture inspired by words on a page.  Poets and visual artists have collaborated for centuries, and some of the best examples of these multimedia explorations can motivate young people to look at the written word through a visual lens.

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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Poetry Birds

by Joni WallacePoetry Birds 4

Joni Wallace's poetry collection Blinking Ephemeral Valentine was selected by Mary Jo Bang for the 2009 Levis Prize and is forthcoming from Four Way Books (March, 2011). Her poems have been published in Boston Review, Barrow Street, Blue Mesa Review, Conduit, Cutbank, Forklift, Ohio, Laurel Review and have been featured in Connotations Press, An Online Artifact. She holds an MFA from the University of Montana. Joni is also a musician and co-founder, with poet Ann Dernier, of Poets' Studio.

"These are the poetry birds, Mom," says my beaming five-year-old, presenting me with her drawing. "And...they are famous."  For the last two years these birds have graced the wall in the room where I write. If they had a song, it would be  "attention, pay attention."  And they remind of something Dean Young wrote of poets: we are trying to make birds, not birdhouses.  This same "birdness" is what Richard Shelton calls "claritas:" those moments of clairvoyant transcendence that come through poems when poems work.  

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Monday, September 27, 2010

Street Rhyme Rhythm

by Sarah Kortemeier

Sarah KortemeierSarah Kortemeier is a teaching artist and is completing her MFA at the University of Arizona. She also teaches undergraduate poetry and composition courses at the U of A.

The Poetry Center's first fall Poetry Joeys is happening this Saturday, Sept. 25th at 10:00 a.m.

When I taught Poetry Joeys for the 7-9 age group this spring at the Poetry Center, I had the pleasure of working with a class of very energetic and intellectually curious children.  During our first lesson, one boy asked me if I knew what a chimera was: clearly, this was a group of kids who loved words.  I saw immediately that many of the students were deeply attracted to learning the sense of new words; by the acquisition and use of complex vocabulary, they were attempting to achieve a more diverse, complicated, and sophisticated view of the world.  

Needless to say, this class was a blast to teach.

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Tuesday, September 21, 2010
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