Poetry should be heard. It should be read aloud and savored on the tongue.
Students often aren’t sure how to read poetry aloud: the periods don’t match the ends of lines; sometimes there is no punctuation at all; and if there is, it can be all crazy-town!
The proper reading aloud of poetry is important to me. I have made a point–in whichever school I find myself come the days preceding Remembrance Day–to check that the students who are tasked with reading “In Flanders Fields” understand the phrasing and meaning of the lines.
The understanding of the phrasing of poetry can mean the difference between an impassioned or cold, robot-esque experience.
One great way to induct our students into the sonorous, lyrical, or imagist turns of phrase in the poetry we teach is to let them listen to poetry being read by others. There is a great book/series called Poetry Speaks you may find it in your school library. It comes with CDs of poets reading their work. If you like this idea but don’t have any good recordings on hand, I suggest podcasts.
There are a number of websites which feature free resources like the short, streamed audio of single poems in the Poem of the Day section on the Poetry Foundation website, to the Vancouver-based public radio program Wax Poetic (note: every episode of this show is tagged on iTunes as “explicit” so it is likely best for senior students). The Poetry Foundation also has a number of other podcast series. Check out “Poetry Magazine Podcast,” “Poem Talk,” “Poetry Off the Shelf,” and “Essential American Poets” (and more) for some interesting listening.
Once your students have heard a number of poems and have started reading aloud with more art and confidence, you may want to suggest that they ‘give back’ to the online poetry world. The Poetry Foundation has created a space on soundcloud for anyone to record and upload their own reading/interpretation of a piece of poetry. It’s called “record-a-poem” and the cool thing about soundcloud, in case you’re not familiar, is that listeners can comment at chosen points throughout a sound recording which creates a really cool audio/visual populist and synergistic experience.