‘When people say that poetry is a luxury, or an option, or for the educated middle classes, or that it should not be read at school because it is irrelevant, or any of the strange and stupid things that are said about poetry and its place in our lives, I suspect that the people doing the saying have had things pretty easy. A tough life needs a tough language – and that it what poetry is. That is what literature offers – a language powerful enough to say it how it is.
It isn’t a hiding place, it is a finding place.’
Jeanette Winterson, from Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?
Came across this quote on Dawn Garisch’s blog, and I was practically jumping on my bed because earlier this afternoon I was trying to help a bunch of grade 11 Xhosa, native-speaking kids unpack Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116: “Let me not to the marriage of true minds”. It was such an awesome experience for me to watch them really throwing themselves and their eyes light up as the words of the poem started making sense. Of course it could possibly because this sonnet is about love.
I am a big advocate of the power of poetry in teaching. Poetry allows learners to dream and come up with word images that transport them to faraway lands, to dream new worlds. Most importantly, it gives them essential skills that help in unpack complex concepts. It allows for brainstorming. Structured thinking. Definitely promoting creative thinking. Seeing links between words and concepts and goes a long way towards helping them access their school curriculum. Poetry is a playful way of learning, for sure..
And for those, who really live in dangerous situations (literally). Who see and breathe negativity around them. Those who live in poverty. It allows them space to exhale and take in new ideas. To escape for a moment into their imagination and be silly.