The impact of poetry in high school literature
October 29, 2021
To be or not to be? That is the question as Mrs. Gretchen McGill breaks down the process of sonnet writing.
Normally, when a teacher brings up poetry, a universal sigh partnered with an eye roll spreads across the classroom. For many, it can be cryptic and difficult to comprehend, making it understandable when a student is distressed during the unit. Some students have found a way around the distress and confusion by taking poetry with Ms. Gretchen McGill.
A senior poetry student, Rachyl Zimmerman, illustrated the learning style of the class. They read and analyze works by famous poets, learn the history of various poetry styles, and express their ideas by writing poems based on a broad prompt.
“Taking poetry made me think more about an author’s choices in storytelling,” junior Alaina Trumbull said. “[...] even just in English class it can help you with a more artistic expression or observation.”
Poetry, used as a creative outlet, can create an accepting atmosphere for students and their peers. Senior Grace Russell described how poetry helped her explore literature from a new, fresh perspective.
“Everyone in the class is so helpful and are always ready to help if you’re unsure what to do next, which in turn makes it easier for you to figure it out for yourself,” Russell said. “[Poetry] gives students a safe place to explore their ideas and be creative, and improve their writing skills.”
Poetry is a way for teens to shake off the stress of meeting graduation standards by giving students an English credit. From odes to freeform, Ms. McGill’s class goes in-depth with how different types of poems are written and received. Creative writing is also a common ground for gaining an English credit, and there is shown to be a benefit to taking one or both classes.
“Poetry class is definitely more about being able to express your ideas clearly and effectively, whereas creative writing is more on how to correctly write specific types of poems,” Russell said.
Creative writing and poetry are similar classes, yet there are differences in what class an individual student would be the best fit in. Poetry teacher Ms. McGill expressed that if students are seeking a creative outlet or a different way to earn that last English credit, they might enjoy taking this course.
“Any student who wants to have some room for creativity and imagination in their schedule, or who wants to explore themselves as a writer [would enjoy this class],” McGill said.
Poetry and creative writing are both marketed toward students with an inventive side. Poetry of course focusing on poets and the styles they wrote in, and creative writing focuses on writing skills and originality. Since Poetry class is about one type of literature in several groupings, there is more freedom in how and what students get to write.
“Poetry definitely allows a little more freedom [than creative writing],” Russell said.
With the structure of poetry fluctuating so abundantly between styles, the ways one writes become open-minded, expressive, and overall personalized.
“[The] structure of a poem or the creative literary devices (as stupid as it sounds) can really help accentuate a message,” Trumbull said. “Poetry is subjective and abstract.”
As the class goes on, each student prepares for the final. In most English classes, finals are dreaded, yet not in poetry. Students have a week or more to work on their final projects, much like an art class.
“We have a few workshop poems for our final portfolio and analysis essays,” Zimmerman said.
Poetry is a class that is meant to lean in on specific writing skills by honing in on the idea of the outward expression of emotion. Having a final project that tells a story is part of what poetry is all about, finding yourself.
“I just want [students] to know that poetry is not a mysterious, unreachable thing,” Ms. McGill said. “It’s actually if done well, very universal and very adaptable to anyone at any time in any situation, and so I just want them to know that poetry isn’t just a bunch of old people writing poems in a textbook, it’s actually very different nowadays.”