In the study of language, poetry appreciation is an aspect one cannot dodge. The Master Brewer, The Place called Home, The Road not Taken, The Chimney Sweeper are a few poems students of English in Ghana must have come across. At the lower levels of study, it did not feature in our studies. As we climbed higher, every English Language course study had a number of poems.
For a long time, we misunderstood poetry appreciation to mean “chewing” a poem and the interpretation given by our teacher in order to reproduce it in the exam. In the first year of Secondary School, we had a teacher who used a different approach .After she had chosen one person to read or as she termed it, performed the poem, she will ask for everyone’s interpretation of it. On the said day, we were analysing Andrew Marvell’s To her Coy Mistress. We gave all sorts of funny interpretations but in the end, when our teacher gave us the generally accepted interpretation of it, we then understood the importance of poetry and what it does to the mind. To me,
Poetry teaches us to read diverse voices and how to communicate;
Poetry teaches us to discuss complex topics;
Poetry teaches us how to write, write and not give up till it is near perfect;
Poetry teaches us how to get to the emotions of people;
And it teaches us to cope with situations like loss, pain, isolation and others.
In April, Emilia Clarke of Game of Thrones told viewers on her Instagram page that poetry had helped her cope with being locked down. She read a poem from a collection by William Sieghart called Poetry Pharmacy. Some of her fans found it weird while others could totally relate. The poem she chose was about loneliness.
Admitting that “isolation is a funny thing”, she challenged other actors to do same. There are poems that express reassurance, rebirth, pain and others and by reading them, especially aloud, one gets a sense that he/she is looking their challenges in the face and beating them to a battle.
Based largely on the way poetry is taught, most people think poetry is boring, should be written in a certain way and is uncool. Although, there are certain parameters that good poetry should follow, poetry can be expressed in diverse forms.
Songs are poetic;
Movies have poetic lines;
If you look beyond the obvious and pay attention to the words and their literal and associated meanings, the beauty of poetry and its effects will be glare.
Lots of people listen to music, read and watch movies. People only pause to digest the lyrics or the words when they are in particular situations. I know people who have heard a particular song play so many times but have only listened to the words a few times. And on those occasions, it got to them. They appreciated the song even better for its poetic effects and benefited. This is a period of pain, loss and grief for many. As you listen to music, watch movies and read, make sure you are not only enjoying it on the shallow level. Go deep into it.
More importantly, are you helping your child appreciate poetry for their assignments? Teach them to read beyond the lines because poetry appreciation is the ability to recognize, develop the mind, see the unseen and prove that it is there and appreciate the art of writing. It is not mere flat reading. Point out beautiful expressions to them and explain the imagery and other poetic elements and their meanings as well. It is time consuming to do but it is a rewarding mental exercise.
Attempt to capture your emotions by way of writing, as well. Sometimes, switch roles from the receiving end to the writing end. Do not worry if you cannot write in iambic pentameter or use vivid imagery. Just allow your thoughts to flow. You will feel better.