Craig White's Literature Courses

Critical Sources

Making or Reinforcing
Positive Associations
with Poetry

A few students may be like us, yearning to find and hear a voice and words that spoke to them of all that mattered.

But most students think poetry's for someone else either long ago or they'll never meet anyway except in English class.

"I donít get it."

"Whatís the use or reward?"

Young people highly socialóIf they say or indicate the attitudes above, few of their peers will argue and most will feel confirmed.

Easy out most people take, same as religion and politics: the safe and respectable option is to wait quietly for whoever or whatever it is to shut up and go away. Do the minimum required so you donít have to do it again

Even older people: ďThatís interesting, but please donít tell me about it.Ē


Since young people are social creatures, find poetry alive in social contexts.

How do you make the strangeness of poetry familiar?

How do you associate it with what you or an even younger person might care for?

Discuss it in terms of associations they may like.

For students who never again go into poetry, thereíll be something they remembered liking.

For students who stay with literature, you'll defend and reinforce their inclinations.


Song lyrics as lyric poetry

"Lyrics" to songs use same techniques as poetry

Song lyrics are usually somewhat rawer, cruder, or more obvious, but no problem if the music propels them through rough spots

Song lyrics don't have to carry themselves, and most song lyrics don't work as well on the written page.

Written poems tend to be more complex, subtleónot hurried by music, though sometimes faster. Poets may assume a more sophisticated audience.



Movies + literature

Romeo & Juliet

Dead Poets' Society (1989)

Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994) > W.H. Auden, "Funeral Blues"

Basketball Diaries (1995)

Walkabout (1971) + Housman poem



Poetry and visual art

Auden, Musee des Beaux Arts

Blake, The Tyger


Charismatic poets:

Sylvia Plath

Lord Byron


Maya Angelou



Tupac Shakur


Corridos and variations

Mexican border ballads


Hymns, prayers

Mystical poetry sounds like prayer:

Psalms of David, Christís Beatitudes and Parables, St. Francis, St. John of the Cross (Judeo-Christian)

Rumi, Hafez (Muslim)

Tagore (Bengali Hindu)

Spiritual and Devotional Poets


Social media?

Plenty of creative writers share online, but like real-space writing groups they form, break up, re-form.

Flash poetry

Flash fiction


Performative poemsósearch YouTube

Poetry slam: competitive art of performance poetry (poetsí equivalent of sf cons)

Narrative poems:

The Face on the Ballroom Floor (cowboy competitions)


Lord Byron