Posts Tagged ‘teaching english’

Adrienne Rich on how poetry is taught.

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

No Dark Sarcasm in the Classroom

You must write, and read, as if your life depended on it. That is not generally taught in school. At most, as if your livelihood depended on it: the next step, the next job, grant, scholarship, professional advacement, face; no questions asked as to further meanings. And, let’s face it, the lesson of the schools for a vast number of children — hence, of readers — is This is not for you.
To read as if your life depended on it — but what writing can be believed? isn’t all language just manipulation? Maybe the poet has a hidden program — to recruit you to a cause, send you into the streets, to destabilize, through the sensual powers of language, your tested and tried priorities? Rather than succumb, you can learn to inspect the poem at arm’s length, through a long and protective viewing tube, as an interesting object, an example of this style or that period. You can take refuge in the idea of “irony”. Or you can demand that artists demonstrate loyalty to that or this moral or political or religious or sexual norm, on pain of having books burned, banned, on pain of censorship or prison, on pain of lost public funding.
Or, you can say: “I don’t understand poetry.”

— Adrienne Rich

from As if your life depended on it, What Is Found There: Notebooks on Poetry and Politics, WW Norton & Co, 2003.


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