Monday, March 10, 2014

tie the poem to a chair

The other day on twitter's #aplitchat, the poem Introduction to Poetry by Billy Collins was referenced:

Q6. As teachers, how do we prevent students from "tying it to a chair, torturing a confession from it" -- Billy Collins

This question sparked a wonderful conversation about the Common Core emphasis on Close Reading and whether it brings students back to the poem or neglects the artistry of it all. 

Some teachers said they use this Collins poem to introduce the idea of reading for appreciation instead of response on demand.

There was discussion of David Coleman's definition of Close Reading. David Coleman, a lead author of the Common Core standards, has a narrow view of how to get to the reader's interpretation.

It was a creative conversation, made even better by requiring me to re-read the wonderful Billy Collin's poem.

Introduction to Poetry

I ask them to take a poem   
and hold it up to the light   
like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem   
and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem’s room   
and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski   
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author’s name on the shore.

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope   
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose   
to find out what it really means.

What are your thoughts? Have you ever tied a poem to a chair with rope and tortured a confession out of it? Have you ever asked your students to beat it with a hose?

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