A book I have read recently is entitled “Why Poetry Matters” by Ralph Fletcher. In simple terms, the book details how to get students to write better poetry. The book does a great job of not insisting that their are “correct” poems out there, and how certain styles of poetry are better than others. This book is just a simple guide to thinking about certain roads to improve your poetry. Fletcher would say a poem usually has three things when it is a successful: imagery, music, and emotion. When teaching students how to pick up and tinker with the art of writing, I think it is good to have short lists like this in order to provide actual ways to think about poetry. I think an argument could be made that poems have more than those three things, but in order to provide students with some actual context, those three words are a good place to start building your poem.
When I started to think about those three terms in my poetry, I felt it helped me along. Any time you are going to stress something to your students, it is probably a good thing to try it on yourself to see if it works. Applying Fletcher’s methods to my own poetry has made me more aware of how to write rough poems that include those three elements (imagery, music, emotion). I am a believer that by doing two of those three things well, the third aspect will actually be created on its own in the subtext. But I believe you can’t only do two of them okay in order to create the third.
The book also had great examples of student poems, and how to make poems better by avoiding the language we feel has to be associated with poems. Fletcher insists on student brainstorming before they sit down to write, but also encourages letting your students just spill some words. The biggest suggestion with regard to brainstorming was to ask students to construct around what they think about. After all, most poems being shorter and trying to arrive at a type of insight or comfort, writing poems around what we think about is going to place us in a familiar place with regard to our writing.