Poetry, Judy Cook says, cannot be defined. It is simply "compressed language" used to communicate big ideas in a small space. From this premise she builds a fairly thorough foundation for middle and high school students studying poetry.
How Does This Work?
Introduction to Poetry: Forms and Elements is intended for use with three slim poetry anthologies. Each anthology is inexpensive, and Cook encourages students to write in them. You could find the poems covered in the guide in most anthologies, but those recommended are affordable and page numbers are included in the guide.
The guide begins with a brief timeline of major eras in the history of poetry. Part one covers types of poetry (narrative, lyric, dramatic), part two deals with the elements of poetry, and part three is a discussion of its forms. In the back is an answer key. The guide itself is only 72 pages, so coverage of each topic is necessarily brief—this is an introduction, not a complete treatment.
Students read the selected poems and a portion of text, and complete written exercises. The exercises range from matching terms and definitions to scanning lines to essay answers to creative writing assignments. Cook acknowledges that the creative writing exercises aren't necessary, though she also states her philosophy that people learn about any form of art best when they are allowed to try their own hand at making it.
Cook writes from a Christian perspective, so many poems are compared to Biblical passages. There is no treatment of Biblical poetry however, though the author suggests resources for further study. This isn't one of those "worldview and literature" courses so popular right now, either—just an introduction to poetry from a Christian perspective.
This is by no means a complete poetry curriculum. Students study a variety of poems from different eras and geographic regions and learn the basics. It is a good introduction for those with no experience studying poetry, and a good brush-up for those who know bits and pieces and need a fuller survey. For high school students who want to go further, you may want to look into How to Read a Poem or The Art and Craft of Poetry.
The Dover texts used:
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