Well it’s teaching time again, which means less blogging time in the next, oh, three to six months. But I still hope to post every couple of weeks or so, and hope especially to have cause to add to the “Teaching Poetry” section of the site.
On the title of this post, at least three alternative ways to take it (the last of which will take me back to “Teaching Poetry”):
1) This university term I’m adapting a course I’ve taught before in the 1h MWF format to a different teaching time frame, the 1.5h TTh format, and for the first time (at the undergraduate level) I’m teaching a 3h, once a week class;
2) The latter 3h class is scheduled for an all new teaching time, from 6 to 9pm, which is my first go at teaching at night; and
3) A select(ed) few poems have taken up a good amount teaching time these past two weeks. These are, in the order they’re occurring to me right now:
- Emily Dickinson, “I felt a Cleaving in my Mind“
- Philip Larkin, “This be the Verse“
- Ted Hughes, “The Horses“
- Paul Muldoon, “Vico” [link]
- Paul Muldoon, “Ontario”
- William Wordsworth, “Daffodils“
- Percy Shelley, “Ozymandias“
- Ted Hughes, “Famous Poet”
- Philip Larkin, “Aubade“
- Wendy Cope, “Spared“
- Philip Larkin, “High Windows“
- Dylan Thomas, “Poem in October“
- Dylan Thomas, “A Refusal to Mourn the Death, by Fire, of a Child in London“
- Ted Hughes, “A Dream of Horses”
The best student comment so far suggested that Larkin’s “sun-comprehending glass” could, in calling up an image of diffuse, unbounded light caught up in a prefabricated geometric system of lead guidelines filled with coloured yet translucent material (both permeable and transforming)–that this could be thought of productively as a figure for the socially determined “bonds and gestures” (described in the first movement of the poem) that organize, shape, and channel our essential and chaotic human impulses and desires.
Okay, so I’m channelling and shaping the comment as it actually happened in class, but the insight is a valuable one, I think, and it belongs to the student. I hadn’t seen it exactly in that way before.
Obviously a major part of teaching poetry is teaching students how to judge, channel, and organize the instincts, impressions, emotions, and opinions that poems arouse in them.
If you’re lucky, that is.