Turning Back to Poetry

Storm Taylor, Editor

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Are today’s young people starved of poetry? Billy Collins, the former poet laureate and founder of the Poetry 180 program, is attempting to reach out to students and expose them to the joys of poetry.   On the official Poetry 180 website, http://www.loc.gov/poetry/180/, his mission statement is outlined thus, “ Poetry 180 is designed to make it easy for students to hear or read a poem on each of the 180 days in the school year.”

Most kids have only experienced poetry in a practical context. They are asked to dissect and analyze classic works; groans are issued when the poetry unit starts, and sighs of relief are exchanged when the unit ends.  This is the scope of what most students will experience when it comes to poetry. However, Collins wishes to change that. “A 180-degree turn implies a turning back—in this case, to poetry,” Collins described on his website. He hopes that exposing children and teenagers to poetry on a daily basis will make them less likely to turn away from poetry in general.

How does the program work? In a public forum, such as the beginning or end of the daily announcements, a poem is selected from the Poetry 180 website or published anthology and read to students. While the ideal is to broadcast the poem to as many people as possible, the program can also be used in individual classrooms.

The book Poetry 180 is a collection of 180 contemporary poems used in the program, which can be read for recreation or used as an educational supplement in classrooms. One teacher on goodreads.com rated the book five stars, stating that, “ I think that the poems are relatable for young adults and I think many young adults in schools would be interested in hearing these each day. I plan to use this idea in my own classroom, for these same purposes.”

Jon, another teacher reviewing on goodreads.com, received an excellent reaction to the poems from his students, “I knew I was onto something when I forgot to put the poem up one day. With their knee-jerk sense of entitlement usually reserved for jeopardy games, bathroom breaks, or a chance to go outside, they asked why we didn’t get to look at a poem. Hitherto unimaginable! The book draws students in with poems that echo their lives.

Some might say that Collins is idealistic. However, Jon’s story proves that the program may have a positive impact. If kids are exposed to poems that they relate to, then they have the opportunity to explore new parts of themselves. This is where the positive impact comes from.

From day to day, people live inside themselves without acknowledging it. There are few things like poetry that can bring your awareness back to yourself. Who would benefit more from this than young adults trying to develop an identity?

Would you like to have this program at Bob Jones?

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Total Voters: 1

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