Literary reviews by Tim Love.
Warning: Rather than reviews, these are often notes in preparation for reviews that were never finished, or pleas for help with understanding pieces. See Litref Reviews - a rationale for details.

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

"Making Poetry Matter", Sue Dymoke, Andrew Lambirth and Anthony Wilson (eds), (Bloomsbury, 2013)

The subtitle is "International research on poetry pedagogy". It's repeatedly pointed out that teachers tend not to read or write poetry and hence have trouble teaching it in any other but an academic way. Their feedback to school students about their poetry is understandably constrained by their worries about criticising the personal aspects of the poems. Perhaps art teachers share those concerns.

In places I thought exaggerated claims were made for poetry - in one project where children made "digital poetry", I suspect the (at times minimal) poetry content had little to do with the project's success. And Sasha Matthewman wrote that "Bate writes that poetry has a unique and special power to make the natural world present to the reader and to prompt an emotional connection with nature" (p.73)

There wasn't too much edu-speak. One example is "In this chapter, I frame perspectives towards intercultural communication and ideology within a dynamic paradigm that teachers and students are continually negotiating" (p.146)

Here are some quotes -

  • "Some evidence suggests that poetry is the least well-taught part of English curricula in the United Kingdom and abroad ... and is indeed disappearing from the curriculum in some schools in England ... This situation is in stark contrast to the wider interest in poetry of society at large where it is currently finding new audiences through rap music, the slam movement festivals, open mic readings and online" (p.1)
  • "we are producing a lot of teachers who remember being anxious around the reading and writing of poetry when they were children themselves, and who are therefore very likely to end up communicating that anxiety, rather than anything else" - Andrew Motion (p.23)
  • "OFSTED reported inspection findings in which over half the cohort of teachers interviewed could name only one, two or no poets at all" (p.24)
  • "exams - for which poems are in some senses seen as the ideal focus (short and packed with 'language') - ensure that poetry retains a significant place in the curriculum, but often lead to pedagogies which do not result in a satisfactory classroom experience" (p.34)
  • "poetry writing has been given very little serious attention in writing research" (p.51)
  • "To hold a perception of poetry that identifies the voice of the poem with the self of the writer and outside the constraints of form can leave teachers, according to Andrews, in a difficult position when it comes to responding to such writing" (p.88)
  • "there is no clear relationship between teachers' explicit academic knowledge and their effectiveness to teach literacy" (p.89)
  • "teachers find difficulty in separating the poem from the individual. The resulting 'sacrosanct' approach may in some part be responsible for a lack of development in the children's capability to redraft their poetry that was noted by Ofsted." (p.93)
  • "Contemporary students are arguably at an advantage in that their culture is characterized by what Walter J. Ong has described as 'secondary orality'" (p.120)

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