"As I read and responded to the poetry, I realized that I never gave poetry enough of a chance." -John H.This semester, among other things, I coordinated a reading group focusing on poetry. I had volumes of poems distributed to several young men on campus, and then emailed them discussion prompts. The guys were assisting me in producing a body of writings that we'll eventually pass along to high school students to help them as they read poetry.
"Something interesting and unusual that I’ve learned about myself is that not only do I enjoy reading poems, but I also enjoy writing and talking about them." --Trion T.
The process of coordinating this project gave me a chance to look over a range of write-ups by collegiate black men, who were not my students. Some guys were busy with part-time jobs and real school work, so their answers to the prompts were halfhearted or hastily written. Then, there were some other guys who really dove in on the assignments and had me looking forward to reading and thinking about their takes on the poems.
Who were these guys? What led them to have such lively and fascinating ideas? Where and under what circumstances had they learned to communicate these thoughtful insights in just a few succinct sentences? What could I learn from them, and how might I pass along their best practices to other students? Those were some of the questions I found myself asking as I read and thought about their responses.
Moving forward, it might be worth taking more time to think and write about how and why various people, in this case young black men, respond, in writing, to poetry.
• Poetry and service-learning
• Volumes of poetry, cell phone images, and textbooks
• Reflections for Poetry Project
• Reading T. Jess, J. McCall, T. Medina, F. X. Walker & K. Young in 2015