Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Bird Poetry

We read and discussed three poems about birds (there are, obviously, dozens of good ones to choose from): Gerard Manley Hopkins' The Windhover, Carl Sandburg's From the Shore, and David Wagoner's Peacock Display. They aren't easy poems, but they're beautiful. And I love talking about poetry. I think the main thing I'm trying to teach the children about poetry is a sort of comfort with it---a willingness to guess at meanings and a realization that symbols and interpretations can be multi-layered. (Very useful lesson to learn about the scriptures, too.) We talk very basically about form (I always have them point out alliteration, rhyme, and repetition; and Abe can figure out rhyme schemes) but mostly I just like to discuss language: why did the poet use that word? What do these lines make you think of? What picture do you get in your head when you hear this?

I think they do really well with the right questions. For example, I asked what they thought the poet was trying to do with the repetition in the lines "Out over the darkness it wavers and hovers/ Out into the gloom it swings and batters,/ Out into the wind and the rain and the vast,/ Out into the pit of a great black world." Abraham said "It sounds like wings flapping up and down in the wind" and Malachi said "It sounds like the ocean waves." I was impressed. If they can be confident drawing varied meanings out of language, they can read and learn to enjoy any poetry! It's okay if I have to point them toward what is important, at this point.

Their favorite poem was the Peacock one. They thought it was SO funny. It's such a great description of the way the peahen ignored the peacock display we saw at the aviary last year. I asked them if they thought female humans ever ignored male humans showing off that way, and they said no. I said it depended on the female human. :) We also really liked the word "amphitheatric."

Seb (who has been semi-obsessed with drawing peacocks ever since our India Unit) made me this pop-up card during his free time the other day. You open a flap on the front and peer through the hole . . .
where you can see the peacock displaying his tail feathers in the background, and the unimpressed peahen, pecking at seeds (just like in the poem) in the foreground.

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