I was surprised and honored to discover this review of The Conversation on the Amazon website. The reviewer, Amy Rasmussen, teaches English in Texas and is active with the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) both nationally and regionally. She's also attended the Frost Place Conference on Poetry and Teaching and subsequently invited one of our guest faculty members, Meg Kearney, to be the keynote speaker at a Texas teachers' gathering.
Dawn Potter crafts a beautiful and compelling lesson in The Conversation: Learning to Be a Poet: Yes, you can. Within the text we find references to poets, snippets of poems, full-length poems, and practical yet beautifully written instructions on how to let poetry seep into our souls and fly out of our fingertips. Potter’s sentences sizzle as she teaches the emotional importance of what poetry is --and does--for us, and how we can invite students into this emotion.
Potter writes: “If you're a teacher, you know all too well how emotional your students can be. No doubt, as you’ve watched them work to express those emotions in writing, you’ve also noticed how often they feel obliged to sum up their emotional chaos with a pat conclusion--sometimes a moral epigram, sometimes a cynical shrug. In essence, they swerve away, using words to slam the door on chaos rather than allowing it to rule the poem. I think many of us succumb to a similar urge whenever we feel ourselves struggling to come to terms with, or simply articulate, the enormous, engulfing, unavoidable losses and desires that define the human condition. We want to find answers even as we run away from the questions.”
The Conversation is more than just a book about teaching poetry. It is a book about living, enjoying, hoping, discovering, and proving. Proving the humanity in each of us as we study the work of poetic greats: Shakespeare, Dickinson, Shelley, Hopkins and learn to write as they wrote.
Never did I imagine I would read about book about teaching poetry and fall deeply in love with the author’s language. Potter’s prose is as enticing as her poetry and as inviting as her message. I a better teacher and a better individuals because I have read this book. This book is a must read for any teacher who believes in the power of language to change the world for the better. You’ll find more strategies and poetry resources in this book than in any literature textbook, old or new, and these come straight from the mind of a living poet. Now, that’s some primary resource.
At some point in March, I'm going to be Amy's guest on the NCTE Twitter chat she curates. Twitter and I are not very close friends, but I will attempt to be coherent. If you are a happier Twitter chatter than I am, please join in and bail me out.