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What does poetry mean to school children?

Scholars of education say that poetry is an excellent and necessary means of self-expression. Poetry necessitates scratching below the surface, plumbing emotions students are often afraid to share with their peers.

india Updated: Jul 26, 2012 19:13 IST

Scholars of education say that poetry is an excellent and necessary means of self-expression. Poetry necessitates scratching below the surface, plumbing emotions students are often afraid to share with their peers. Poetry writing classes in the West have shown that students often reveal long-hidden troubles they'd be otherwise reluctant to divulge. Poetry becomes a kind of unburdening and also a cleansing.

Uma Nair, English Co-Ordinator at New Delh's Don Bosco School spoke with her students about their involvement with poetry. "Recently an old student wrote to me on one of the social networks and sent some of his poetry.Reading his verses brought alive the mood,the moment and the romance of time.As an English teacher, I often wonder how many students value or even love poetry.

Ms Nair asked her senior school students to write a few lines on why they like poetry. Here is a breathtaking response from Aditya Mukherjee, also the winner of an excellence award in English - "I love poetry because it sets your mind free and allows it to wander about undiscovered realms. The most beautiful aspect of it is that the same set of lines may convey different meanings to different people. The interplay of words and its lyricism make it the most pleasing form of the written art. It is the best medium of writing your heart out in the most condensed manner possible. A poem may bring about many changes in the person - it takes one closer to nature, can open up a vista of perspectives to life, and existence itself."

"In school when I wrote poetry teachers frequently told me they had a much deeper and fuller understanding after reading or listening to my poems," recalls Ms Nair. "There are few schools that encourage this activity".Ms Nair herself has encouraged many students to express themselves through poetry and many of those students have been very successful at functions and publishing avenues at the school level.

When one of her 'discoveries' -DebarshiMitra, was asked why he wrote poetry he simply stated, "Poetry has always seemed to me like a new pair of eyes, through which I can see a new world, a world that belongs just to me. It is at times a consolation to shut my worldly eyes and at times an assurance that though the world might change its courses, I'll always find my haven. The moment of creation I believe cannot simply be presupposed, it is almost a spontaneous flow, driven by an unknown force."

Poetry can also help students define who they are. Since it is a much freer form than prose writing, even students with limited language skills can excel at poetry. Poetry helps a student understand solitude.

Debarshi says, "At times it grows of solitude, solitude that grows of peace not strife when the inner world is complemented by the outer. Of poetry and music one can say that there is the undeniable element of aesthetics in them, both can serve as the faithful mirror of one's thoughts and both are born of images that are preconceived. And poetry not just presents landscapes, it give us eyes to look for them. Perhaps the reason why I write poetry can never be known to me, but it can surely be felt. Perhaps the most worthwhile reason of poetry is to give a window to our dreams that may be lost with the winds of the material world."

Through the medium of poetry, students can more easily understand and identify with their classmates' feelings of sadness, fear, loneliness, rage, excitement, awe and pleasure. What child (or adult, for that matter) wouldn't relate to these lines from "My Dad" by Alan Roberson, a third-grader in San Francisco. "My Dad and I are best friends because he is the other half of my heart. Without him, I could die. Just the smile on his face keeps me alive. His laugh brings me joy. His face is the snow. Without him, I could melt." "In some small way, poetry opens up and saves our lives.English teachers can help in being catalysts to creativity, says Ms Nair. Sometimes all it takes is the influence and encouragement of the right person at the right moment, to release something that has been trapped inside --a love of language or of the sound or meaning of words.

First Published: Jul 26, 2012 19:10 IST