Review of The Art of Poetry: Classical Academic Press
My daughter turned 14 years of age earlier this year and as with many students in the high school years, her days are very full. Besides her lessons at home, she is studying the cello at a level which requires about 6 hours of practice per week and she swims in a competition squad for 8 hours a week. From what I've observed, many other home educated children are in similar circumstances with a variety of similar or other commitments.
So why include the study Poetry? What use is it? Isn't it one of those 'enrichment' subjects that aren't really necessary; just a fancy add on and reserved for those kids who are into that type of thing?
Something to consider:
'…your days are long and crammed with obligation and information and technology. You are at risk for thinking that this is knowledge. Poetic knowledge insists that beauty and truth can’t be separated. It reminds us that the rational alone will not take us to full knowledge and that we should be astonished by what is true.'
The Art of Poetry is a Poetry Curriculum but what it also does admirably is to give a beautifully articulated defence for the need of poetry in our lives, no matter what our age.
‘Poetry acknowledges something deep within our nature...’
There are 16 Chapters each having a short anthology of poems with a variety of discussions questions, followed by an activity section and quiz at the end of the chapter. The activity section has a wide scope of options for students. My daughter loves drawing and enjoyed some of the more creative ideas for mixing poetry with art. Students who prefer writing, reciting, or acting, will also find plenty of ideas here.
There are three main sections in the text:
1) Elements of Poetry - eight chapters discussing Images, Metaphor, Symbols, Word, Sound, Rhythm, Shape, and Tone.
2) The Formal History of Poetry - seven chapters covering the History of Form, Verse Forms, Shaping Forms, A Case Study in Form, Open Verse, A Case Study in Open Verse, and Narrative Poems.
3) Application - a section on growing your interest in poetry with suggestions such as starting a poetry group, finding mentors, and a range of other ideas.
Three Apendices include short biographies of the poets covered in The Art of Poetry; planning ideas, a glossary of terms, bibliography, timeline, and quizzes.
A few timetable options are suggested: an intense month long unit; spreading the curriculum out over the year - two sections per month; or expanding it out over several years.
‘Poetry fundamentally changes our relationship to language - we can no longer see words
as merely serviceable vehicles.’
The complete curriculum for The Art of Poetry includes a Student Text, a Teacher’s Edition, and a set of 7 DVD’s with over 15 hours of material.
The DVD’s aren’t essential but I found them helpful and Miss 14 enjoyed the discussions between Christine Perrin and her four students. The students were of a similar age to my girl, and the banter between them added a nice dynamic.
At the beginning of each chapter, the author reads from sections of the text and then has a group discussion. At the end of this, she chooses one or two of the activities and demonstrates it.
One of our favourites was a free writing exercise. I thought I knew what this meant but as the author talked through it and then went ahead and modelled it, I realised I didn’t! For five minutes we wrote about images from one of the four seasons - no planning, just writing anything that came to our minds during that time, without stopping. I was pleasantly surprised with both of our efforts. This is a great exercise for those who tend to overthink things or get mental blocks when faced with a blank page.
Other activities included:
An exercise in Ekphrasis - a poem written in response to a visual piece of art. Moozle observed Pieter Bruegel's work, The Land of Cockaigne, and wrote this in response to it:
From the section on Metaphors:
‘Draw a picture of the bird of hope as you imagine it from Dickinson’s poem...
Will you ever see a bird now without considering the way in which its miraculous wings defy gravity and lift into the air? This is how poetry begins to live with us each day and in the scenes we encounter.’
Moozle chose to draw a blue wren, a tiny, beautiful, Australian native bird, as a metaphor for hope:
'Poetry remind us that the metaphor is the basic way of knowing the unknown and that we often describe one thing in terms of another. Poetry gives us images to cherish and to invigorate
our daily experience.'
If you were planning to use the course with a group or needed some guidance in how to teach poetry in general, the DVD's would be a good resource. Or if like me you're using the curriculum with only one student, seeing other kids getting involved in a poetry discussion helps facilitate your own.
The Teacher’s Edition includes the text from the Student Edition along with suggestions for discussion questions, answers to discussion questions for the poems, and answers to quizzes. It is arranged in such a way that you could use the Teacher’s Edition for the Student as the discussion answer guides are found tucked away at the end of the chapters.
The answers to the quizzes are sometimes on the opposite page so you could either cover them up or give the questions orally.
The Student Edition has the same content as the Teacher’s Edition minus the answer keys.
'Educating the imagination is an important aspect of studying poems.'
* A good variety of poems are studied
* The chapter introductions are just beautifully written (the quotations in this post were taken from the text)
* There is an emphasis on reciting and memorisation
* The activities have a mixture of analytical and creative suggestions
* The course is taught by a poet who obviously loves her subject
* It is very adaptable and could also be used for Mother Culture!
* There is so much content in this curriculum that it could overwhelm at first sight. In fact, the author specifically says in her introduction not to let it do this.
* Depending on the student, they may not be ready for the more analytical aspects of the curriculum.
If a student hasn't had much exposure to poetry before, I'd concentrate more on appreciating the various poems the author presents, reading them aloud, and covering the section 'The Elements of Poetry.'
The author reminds us that poetry can communicate before it is understood. Keeping that in mind takes the pressure off so that we can enjoy studying aspects of poetry and return to a lesson later on to look at it in a more analytical way.
Appendix C has a simplified plan on Page 252 that summarize some practices to help initiate you into the world of poetry.
For those following a Charlotte Mason method of education, I'm using this in Year 9 of Ambleside Online.
'…Poetry may make us from time to time a little more aware of the deeper unnamed feelings which form the substratum of our being, to which we rarely penetrate;
for our lives are mostly a constant evasion of ourselves.'
Classical Academic Press kindly provided me with a free copy of The Art of Poetry Curriculum for review purposes and what I wrote above is my honest opinion.
They are also offering a 20% discount for the Art of Poetry Program (discount won’t apply to individual texts). Discount code “AOP2019” can be applied at checkout for the 20% off.
The discount will run through until the 31st May 2019.
For further information:
Art of Poetry samples at Classical Academic Press