Poetry Has Power
Celebrates National Poetry Day on 6 October 2016
by Tim and Vicky Scott (revised, originally published in 2010)
Suitable for Whole School (Sec)
To consider the motivational power of poetry.
Preparation and materials
You will need a painting by numbers set and a copy of the poem, ‘The Road Not Taken’ by Robert Frost, which is available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Road_Not_Taken_%28poem%29
More information about National Poetry Day is available at: http://tinyurl.com/nzm9cbp
Optional: you may wish to ask two students to read the two poems in the ‘Assembly’, Steps 4 and 5.
National Poetry Day is a nationwide celebration of poetry past, present and future, and will be celebrated on 6 October 2016. The theme for this year is ‘Messages’.
So what is poetry?
Listen to a range of responses or allow the students some time to think.
Have you ever done painting by numbers?
Show students the painting by numbers set.
Poetry can be an exciting way of painting with words. Not all poetry has to rhyme. Wordplay, repetition and metaphor can all be used to make poetic verse.
Poetry can be powerful. Good poetry can change the way we feel and the way we see things. It can inspire and motivate us, and it can enrich our lives. Some of the best songwriters are also poets. Words, pictures and music combine in the songwriter’s mind, and eventually a fully developed new song emerges, to be released for people to enjoy.
Here are two poems, one old and one new. Each reveals truths that can shape our life journeys.
King David, the famous king of Israel, was not only a great leader, soldier and musician, but also a poet. He wrote many of the psalms in the Bible, which are remarkable in the way that they express the complete range of human emotions.
David’s faith in God is what enabled him to survive Saul’s attacks. David’s faith made him sensitive enough to write poetry, but also tough enough to fight in battles. Here’s an extract from Psalm 139.13–16 about God’s amazing design and intimate knowledge of human life.
For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works; that I know very well.
My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes beheld my unformed substance. In your book were written all the days that were formed for me, when none of them as yet existed.
Ask students how the poem made them feel, and record their responses.
David’s son, Solomon, who became the next King of Israel, inherited his father’s poetic gift, as shown in the passionate love poem, ‘The Song of Songs’ (or ‘Song of Solomon’), in the Bible.
In 1902, a 28-year-old aspiring American poet received a rejection slip from the editor of the prestigious journal, Atlantic Monthly. Returned with a batch of poems he had submitted was a curt note that said, ‘Not one worthy of publishing.’ That poet’s name was Robert Frost, and he became one of the great poets of the twentieth century.
Here’s one of his poems, ‘The Road Not Taken’ (available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Road_Not_Taken_(poem)). As it is read, think about what the narrator may be talking about (answers could include making choices, destiny, individualism, non-conformism and regret).
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I -
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Many poems that have become well known are often written by an unknown writer, so they are attributed as ‘Anon’. Here are some very short poetic verses by unknown writers that speak about the importance of love, generosity, vision and good character.
- ‘Love in your heart isn’t put there to stay. Love isn’t love, till you give it away.’
- ‘Two men looked out from prison bars, one saw mud, the other stars.’
Time for reflection
Everyone has different gifts through which to express their creativity – this does not mean that we will all be great poets. Poetry demands variety.
It’s important that we don’t spend our lives comparing ourselves with other people who are seemingly ‘more creative’ than we are – we all have a different type of creativity. You will probably know your strength in this field, so make sure you use it! And if you are thinking, ‘I’m not very creative,’ take an inventory – think about all the activities you will be involved in during the coming week. Now see how creative you are!
Thank you for the gift of poetry that we can enjoy reading and learning from.
Help us to express our God-given creativity in many ways.
Thank you that each of us has different gifts in creativity.
Thank you that we are all different.
‘This little light of mine’ (Hymns Old and New (Kevin Mayhew), 510, 2008 edition)