to whet the appetite for listening

In today’s world, we encourage scanning (ever-movement) as a literacy skill. Then we tell students to sit still. Computers, doorless, are placed in front of every child, and we expect them to stay in the yardage we allot them. Poems, small postcards from someone else’s imagination, invite teenagers to listen, to read, to imagine a life outside of their own. The impact of this on development (not to mention emotional health) is appealing. A whiff of homophobia in a classroom? Place unexpected poems in their midst. Have them trip over other peoples experiences, through poetry, and help them to land softly outside the fence of ignorance. Do I want them to read The Odyssey, The Bluest Eye, Les Misérables? Of course I do. Do I need to develop their palate before force feeding? Of course I do. Poetry can be served with every course, like salt and pepper, to whet the appetite for listening.

- Lara Bozabalian, on how poetry helps her teach high school students, from her essay "The Reason for Poetry" over on the Best Canadian Poetry website. You can read the whole thing here.

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