The Power of Poetry

April 20, 2017

by Patricia Stockland, Publisher, Cantata Learning

As an editor, an author, and a reader of poetry, I bring admitted bias to this post. But I truly believe in its power. Poetry is universal and uniting. It’s accessible to everyone, anywhere. Anyone can find it. Anyone can write it. Everyone can enjoy it.

Poetry can be playful. It can be cathartic. Poetry can open a door or a mind—or build a bridge.

When I was in elementary school, my classmates and I were required to memorize a poem every spring and recite it for the class. We did this through sixth grade. I don’t think this is a wide practice any longer, but the experience for me was transformative. I had been a shy-ish bookworm. I spent a lot of recess by myself. But these poems! The teachers had special folders full of sheets of poems. We could sort through the pieces and make our own choice of what to share with the class. I loved it. And, over time, this experience became a confidence builder for me.

Beyond teaching basic language arts skills, the genre also holds a tremendous power in social emotional learning. It’s my own speculative theory, but I believe that songs have become contemporary poetry for our children: musical poetry that can be consumed and enjoyed while in motion for so many other things that fill their busy lives. These musical poems can be enjoyed wholly or appreciated in the background of other activities. And songs can be a perfect way to begin teaching poetry—start with the music, and then look at the lyrics.

Consider that song lyrics are a poetic form of expression, a sing-able way to express so many different emotions. Like poems, songs can be funny or serious, rhyme or not, repeat or not, be quiet or loud, tell a story or just be nonsensical. These lyrical, musical, linguistic pictures can reach a child when other means may not. 

Do you have a student who is challenging to reach? Who has a difficult time expressing themselves or opening up or connecting to others? I would encourage you to try the power of poetry, either in written or musical form. Give them space to explore sounds, to find their own poem, to connect with a beautiful, often hidden-in-plain-sight art form that gives them a new way to find their own voice. The power of poetry can be amazing.

Note: April is National Poetry Month, the perfect time to introduce a young learner to the power of poetry. Not sure where to begin? Check out the Academy of American Poets’ list of 30 ways to celebrate.