Like photography or sound recording, poetry can capture a moment objectively, and share it with its audience. Unique to writing, though, is the fact that the moments it captures must be processed through abstraction: translated by the author into words, which the reader later decodes for appreciation. Because the poet has to transmute things from the real world into words, poetry is naturally concerned with the forms things take, how the forms change, and how forms relate to ideas or to an object's essence. Similes and metaphors, which stand among the basic building blocks of poetic expression, examine a thing with a fresh perspective by comparing it to another thing that has some commonality, albeit a different form. Here the poet's concern with time comes into play, as the stationary words on a page try to capture a world that is continually changing: time is the measurement of change, of growth and decay, of light giving way to dark and then back to light again. For example, John Milton's "Sonnet 7 (On His Having Arrived At the Age of Twenty-Three)" contemplates how aging affects a human's relationship with eternity.
The following activities are designed to open up discussions of how poets look at form and represent it in their work. Instructors can use these activities as springboards for discussions about sciences (such as physics or botany), about history (by examining how land or forms or government has changed), or about theology or philosophy (how the essence of a thing relates to its physical manifestation), to name just a few.
Summary: In small groups, students will write and record a video or radio advertisement for an item mentioned in one of the Exploring Poetry poems.
Suggested Teaching Strategy: collaborative, illustrating, writing, audio/video
Learning Outcome: summarizing, explaining
Related Curricula: video production, music, illustration, media, advertising
Required Time: one 50-minute period for planning, two for taping, one for presentation
Materials: video equipment and/or audio equipment
Have students work in groups to create an advertising campaign designed to promote a "new" product from one of the poems in Exploring Poetry, distinguishing it from the "old" product that it used to be. As an ad campaign, students will have to write text, provide visuals and set the poem itself to music. For visuals, instructors may assign filming video footage, creating original art, finding images already in print, or some combination of these. Similarly, a song could be recorded, played live on instruments, or sung a cappella. This exercise encourages students to think positively about aspects of their chosen poem and to make these aspects positive to others. It also brings pop art methods that students are familiar with into contact with poems from different times and places.