Review: The Art of Poetry
What did we review?
We reviewed The Art of Poetry, from Classical Academic Press. Created by Christine Perrin, an experienced literature and creative writing instructor, The Art of Poetry is a classically-influenced curriculum designed to enhance understanding of and appreciation for poetry.
What’s included with The Art of Poetry?
Two books, the Student Text and the Teacher’s Edition, are necessary for instruction. An optional DVD set is also available. It contains more than fifteen hours of instruction and discussion, following Ms. Perrin and a small group of eighth-grade students as they work their way through the entire book.
There are fifteen chapters in The Art of Poetry, grouped into two broad topic areas. The first, The Elements of Poetry, focuses on the individual tools that a poet uses to construct a poem. These include images, metaphors, symbols, words, sound, rhythm, shape (meaning stanzas and lines), and tone (the total presentation). These chapters begin with a lecture-like description of the element, move into a full deconstruction of a sample poem, and then, in the student text, include several more poems with focus questions that may be used as discussion questions or for student response. The answers to these focus questions are covered in-depth in the teacher’s edition.
The second section, The Formal History of Poetry, is similar in layout, but instead focuses on the format of the poem; the structure, if you will, that it fits within. It enlightens the reader with the reasons a poet might choose to use a particular construction, and how that affects the resultant poem.
The activities that end each chapter are to be used as desired – complete each of them, or just a few, depending on the abilities of the students and the expectations for the course. Some of the activities encourage students to write their own poetry while emphasizing that chapter’s lesson, while others are hands-on, interactive ways to experience how words and poetry together with the real world.
What do I need to have to use Art of Poetry?
No materials other than texts, paper, and writing utensils are required, but if you don’t feel comfortable teaching poetry – or think you might be learning as much as your students – I’d highly recommend the coordinating DVDs. These take the brunt of the instruction off the parent (or co-op teacher), and ensure that everyone is at the same level of understanding.
Can The Art of Poetry be reused for other students in my family?
While the student text includes a significant amount of material, it’s not intended to be written in – there simply isn’t room. Regardless of whether the discussion questions are used for written word or just verbal discussion, the activities that are at the end of each chapter will need to be done in a notebook or on looseleaf paper. The positive – The Art of Poetry is reusable indefinitely with no additional purchases needed.
What kind of teaching style is The Art of Poetry recommended for?
While The Art of Poetry was made with classical instruction and Socratic dialog in mind, it’s flexible enough to adapt to the needs of interested students and teachers. Schedules are available for free download that encompass everything from an intensive year-long poetry course, a four-year enrichment course, or anything in-between.
How much teacher preparation is required for The Art of Poetry?
This is a question that’s really going to depend on two things: the intended goal for completion of the course, and the instructor’s comfort level with poetry. In my case, while I love to read poetry, in particular a few favorite writers, and I understand the basic mechanics of form and style, I do not feel that I understand the heart of it as a whole. (In fact, I’m guilty of suspecting that the whole indecipherable mystique of poetry is nothing more than a scam; a façade of the miserable, misunderstood writer who would prefer to stay in agony.) Despite this, sometimes I find beauty, and I think that perhaps there may well be diamonds among the muck of modern poetry.
Perhaps I’m a poetry agnostic? As such, it’s perhaps best, in my case, to let the DVDs do the primary work of instruction, and for me to follow up with the discussion questions… in that, at least, there are things that are tangible enough for me to grab hold of and experience.
Knowing my limitations, I’m aware I could run in circles with this material and try to prepare, but the best use of my time was to pre-read the poems and accompanying materials, so I had a basic understanding of the concepts before we started a chapter, and to determine which of the activities (I thought) we would be doing. That restricted my potential wheel-spinning to a reasonable amount, and yet I wasn’t completely clueless.
What learning styles does The Art of Poetry work well for?
Audio learners, in my opinion. Free MP3s are available for download that have each poem in the entire book; whether you use these or not, poetry is meant to be read aloud. The best mental images are created by closing your eyes, listening and feeling the poem. A visual learner can get through poetry, but in my experience, at least, it’s primarily mechanical. It’s hard to feel a poem when you have difficulty even soaking up the words through your ears.
The activities in each chapter are a good mix for all learning styles; even the kinetic learners are included through tasks that involve manipulating the poems. A teacher familiar with the types of methods that work best for their student should easily be able to make more adaptions to benefit their student(s), also.
What age / grade of students is The Art of Poetry intended for?
The Art of Poetry is for middle and high school students. It’s adaptable to upper elementary, so long as the student has a high level of comprehension and a willingness to experiment with words. I would go as far as to say that so long as the student has a reading and writing level of at least middle school, it’s worth including them, especially if older siblings are also using The Art of Poetry. It’s even easier to include the younger students when many of the “thinking” questions are answered verbally, and the writing & activity portions are graded based on their level of ability.
How does Classical Academic Press recommend The Art of Poetry be used?
Classical Academic Press recognizes that the Art of Poetry may appeal to a broad spectrum of users, and the available schedules illustrate this. In addition, when I was first examining the available information on the website, I discovered that there were even more potential ways to use The Art of Poetry that were not explicitly detailed in the schedules.
In the sample chapters of the teacher’s edition, on pages ix-x, were ideas that I could use to incorporate The Art of Poetry into our school year, despite each of my students already having full English curriculums. It suggests that, if you’re not in a place where you’re ready to do an in-depth study of the material, it’s flexible enough to pick and choose the parts that appeal to you and your students where you are right now; that engaging with the openings to each of the chapters, some discussion of the poems in each section, and work on activities at the end of each of the chapters would be well sufficient for an appreciation course.
There’s no requirement that the chapter quizzes and end of book quiz that are in the Teacher Edition be used, nor much each and every question and essay be answered for students to find the materials enriching. And this, truly, shows how flexible and adaptive that The Art of Poetry can be. It could even be rotated slowly over multiple years; a light course with younger students, and and more detailed, writing-intensive instruction during the high school years.
How did we use The Art of Poetry?
Lightly, and with much joy. I wanted this to be fun, and not a chore; not stressful. So far, we’ve focused on verbal discussion and activities that seem like play, not work. I really like the DVD lessons, but they’re not really necessary for the way that we’re using The Art of Poetry at this time. If I was expecting one of the kids to work through the course as a hefty helping of literature credits, I would definitely want the full set of DVDs on hand.
What did I like about The Art of Poetry? What does it do well?
I love that it’s flexible, and that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. It remembers the joy of the words, not just the literary aspect; sometimes, I fear, too much focus on the literary ideals make it easy to forget that most writing was done for the audience’s enjoyment, not for any claim to literary excellence.
What do I dislike about The Art of Poetry? What could it do better? How could it be improved?
My sole wish would be that there were more activities that appealed to younger students. I understand that the suggestion with younger students is to focus on the first half of the book, the Elements of Poetry, but I believe that it’s possible to bridge that gap and have, even perhaps a second student book, that was geared more toward the younger end of the span. Perhaps a title that works through the same elements in the first half, and then through simpler poetic forms in the second?
Have I been surprised or impressed with certain aspects of The Art of Poetry?
I was greatly impressed at how encouraging the author was toward adapting the material to suit your own needs. Often “adaption” just extends to time span, but not for the material covered; in this, the author excelled at balancing the needs of her audience so that it is usable no matter what your ultimate goals.
What did my children think of The Art of Poetry?
They’ve enjoyed the fun aspect of it so far. They’re relieved that I wasn’t adding another full-bore English curriculum, because that would be a bit much at this point in time. I’ve noticed that they’re using some of the terms we’ve discussed in The Art of Poetry in their regular English curriculums, and it’s definitely a positive that “fun” can convert so easily into learning when everything clicks just right.
What is the pricing for The Art of Poetry?
The Art of Poetry bundle, which includes the Student Text, the Teacher’s Edition, and all the accompanying DVDs, is priced at $99.95. Should you wish to purchase just the books, the Student Text is $24.95 and the Teacher’s Edition is $29.95, while the DVDs, purchased separately, would be $69.95. The bundle is quite a bargain, with a savings of $25 over each item priced individually.
What other products are available from Classical Academic Press?