Exploring How Poets Walk the Line

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Lesson Introduction: 

This lesson plan aims to inspire students to understand how a place, new or familiar, can spark a poem – contemporary and classic. Each student will have the opportunity to write a poem and read it to the group, as well as research and select a poem to read. Poets find as much inspiration in places which are not beautiful, as in those which are. An ordinary urban street can be as inspiring as a thrilling landscape. This realisation gives students the confidence and freedom to explore and express their responses, positive and negative, to their immediate surroundings, as well as respond to special places they recall, or perhaps imagine. ‘Exploring How Poets Walk The Line’ will enable students to discover and share the rich seam of poetry with fellow students; poems which have been inspired and enriched by place. For example, Wordsworth murmured to himself the entire poem ‘Lines Above Tintern Abbey’ before writing down a single word, composing it as he revisited the majestic ruins of Tintern Abbey. This five-day walk inspired the 28 year-old to write the defining poem of the Romantic Movement. To understand poetry and to write it, involves walking the line physically, creatively, politically, thus developing one’s individual rhythm and pace, fusing meaning and form in fresh ways. In short, finding one’s voice and place in the world.

Learning Objectives: 

In this lesson, students will have opportunities to:

  • Explore their immediate surroundings and articulate their responses by writing a poem.
  • Research, read, then discuss as a group, classic and contemporary poets inspired by place.
  • Enrich their vocabulary and sharpen their writing into concise, expressive language.
  • Learn the significance and effect on the listener/reader of a poem’s form and structure: its rhythm, rhyme, metre, stanza and line breaks.
  • Experience the importance of reading one’s poem aloud to a friend and to a group, to test whether it conveys its meaning with clarity and impact.
Materials and Resources: 

To teach this lesson plan, you will need:

  • Internet access to explore online resources, for example:
  • Poetry Archive.org which enables students to read as well as hear leading poets read their work .
  • Poemhunter.com available also as a free app offering hundreds of poems.
  • Words in Air: Poetry in Place. This unique app pinpoints the places of inspiration across the UK and Ireland which have sparked a poem. Available for purchase on the Apple Platform, featuring over 100 poems by contemporary and classic poets of any nationality, from Carol Ann Duffy, UK Poet Laureate, to new voices. All poems in this lesson plan are on the app.  ‘About the Poet’ for each poet provides students with a brief analysis of what sparked the poet’s work, which helps to explain the poem. A website for each poet enables students to further their research and enjoyment.
  • Words in Air can be linked to a projector so that this mApp of inspiration can be shared in each session.
  • The following books would be very helpful additions:
  • The Nation’s Favourite Poems  (BBC Books, 1996, paperback 2004)
  • 52 Ways of Looking at a Poem:  A Poem for Every Week of the Year, by Ruth Padel (Vintage, 2004)
  • Carol Ann Duffy Selected Poems, (Penguin Books, 1994)
  • Division Street, by Helen Mort (Chatto & Windus 2013)
  • Homage to Robert Frost, by Joseph Brodsky, Seamus Heaney, Derek Walcott, (Harper Collins Canada Ltd 1996)
  • 101 Sonnets from Shakespeare to Heaney, Edited with an introduction by Don Paterson, (Faber and Faber, 1999)
  • Paper to print copies of the students’ own and selected poems. The group’s ‘anthology’ of their poems of place extends their learning beyond the lessons, expanding their awareness of poets and poetry as they continue to write.
  • A large map onto which students pin the sites of their poems, thus forming their groups’ unique map of inspiration - One area of Canada, or a global map, depending on the poems. Students with digital skills could turn this into a virtual map, or an app. This project could grow and grow.

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Poetry In Voice is a charitable organization that encourages Canadian students to fall in love with poetry through reading, writing, and recitation. All of our resources are available online for free. You may also use our resources if you reside outside of Canada.