This I Believe

Lisa - Media, Pennsylvania
Entered on June 27, 2006

Poetry has meaning beyond the page. . .

Language has never been my enemy. In a sense, language has saved me. More specifically, Poetry has, on occasion, helped me to move through the darker corners of my life. So, as a teacher, I find myself elated and frustrated while acting as the mediator

between my students’ fears about language and my knowledge that if they can trust

it long enough to embrace it, language can free them too.

Often, teachers believe that to get knowledge into the heads of their students, large anvils of meaning or straight jackets of structure are required. But I have found that the

times my students perceived themselves as learners came out of lessons in which they

were given the chance to talk about the work. Poetry is perceived as evil when the meter and rhyme scheme are the only components they need to “get” for the test. But the

freedom within poetry comes from an individual’s ability to use whatever ideas, emotions or meaning it offers, and keep that essence, like a handkerchief, as it were, for their use, whenever necessary.

Without the abstractions and metaphorical language of poetry, I would have had no safe haven for my own abstract way of experiencing the world when I was a young girl.

Math and Science eluded me– perhaps my teachers couldn’t find ways to teach to my particular learning style, but I believe, now, that for me, Poetry’s qualities held the necessary keys to understanding the world. I believe that children can only gain true knowledge when they encounter the ideas through methods that hold meaning for them too. I mean, they must be given opportunities to experience the subject matter

on their own terms. Do adults allow others to “tell” them how to view/feel the experiences that, in the end, have the most meaning for them? What I am asking and arguing is that learning can only come to the learner when and if the learner wants

it. One of my students wrote a poem entitled, “Where can I turn?” In the poem she explores age-old, teen angst, but the lesson here, as in all expressive writing is that

she trusted the words and the process enough to explore her feelings of loneliness and

uncertainty. She found that although she “pull[ed] back into the darkness”, she finally

“unfold[s] into the warmth”. The poem offered her solace in that moment that no human

could. The process of embracing Poetry gave her comfort. I have come to believe that Poetry can do that for all of us in some way, so that, like the student poet, “when [we]

open our eyes, [we] can see a world, and people [we] can turn to.”