The Favorite Poem Project features videos of Americans saying poems they love. The aural aspect of poetry, coupled with elements of performance art and a reader’s personal connection, definitely make poetry much more palatable than silently reading plainly formatted text. Consider today’s featured website my National Poetry Month gift to you!
The Favorite Poem Project was started by Robert Pinsky when he was named the 39th Poet Laureate of the United States. The main draw of the website comes in the form of 50 short videos where everyday people and celebrities read their favorite poem and explain its significance to their lives. Even more impressive is that over 18,000 Americans expressed an interest in taking part in the project!
I first discovered The Favorite Poem Project years ago when looking for ways to bring poetry to the students in my ninth and tenth grade English classes. It proved quite powerful for students to see a juvenile delinquent such as the guy in the video below find comfort in poetry that echoed his life experience. Even better, the video of a construction worker talking about Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass got my rural students squirming in their seats to see a guy with a manly-job readily acknowledging the personal impact of a poem.
The Favorite Poem Project also has a YouTube channel which I accessed to show the videos on the SmartBoard in my classroom since the videos are formatted on the website couldn’t be enlarged very much. The sky’s the limit for how the videos can be incorporated in the classroom. Not only that, but I made sure that my students realized I had also watched all 50 videos for the love of poetry. To this day, I regularly return to this website when I need a poetic pick-me-up.
Have you ever had to memorize a poem? How did your teachers incorporate poetry into the classroom?
Please share responsibly. Jeri Walker, 2013.
Never heard of this before. I have some time today where I can do a bit of exploring. Thanks for this one.
Jon, The Favorite Poem project really is a great resource, plus it will probably give you some ideas you can apply to some of the poetry videos you’ve made lately.
Jeri — I was moved by the “We Real Cool” video and the young man who suffered the loss of so many young friends. Poetry has a way of encapsulating emotions. Of course, as an English major in college, I read quite a lot of poetry. Please don’t laugh when I tell you the first poem I ever wrote – I believe in the 5th grade — and I remember it to this day. I have no idea why I chose such a squirmy subject. I know this was squeezed into a particular poetic form but I can’t remember the name:
The sly gray rat is big and fat.
He lives on food he finds in vats.
Stealthily he creeps on his way.
Alert for dangers that will end his day.
Jeannette, it just goes to show how powerful poetry can be that you still remember that poem.
I had not heard of this. But that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t love it now. I do love how this demonstrates the power of the word on ordinary everyday people. Poetry has a far greater appeal than most realize.
I love the construction worker and his thought about poetry. It really touched me. 🙂
Susan, I’m glad you like the favorite poem project site. My only regret is that it doesn’t have even more poems on it for viewers to enjoy.
Oh my gosh, I loved that first piece also -We Real Cool. I felt myself getting teary watching it. The way he expresses how he feels about his family and how he dealt with loss just got to me. I remember writing poems in elementary school. I don’t know why but I can always remember the first two lines of a poem I wrote-
There are a lot of things I can’t explain,
Like why a sunny day turns into rain
…and I can’t remember the rest!
Karen, how cool that like Jeannette, you can also remember the lines of a poem you wrote in elementary school. The earliest poems I can remember writing are from high school when my tenth grade teacher really encouraged me to put a few in the student newspaper. There was a funny one about Thanksgiving and Turkey, but I have no idea where it ever went after all these years.
I’m participating in the A to Z April Blogging challenge and discovered these poets: http://citymusecountrymuse2012.blogspot.com/2013/04/a-z-challenge_15.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+CityMuseCountryMuse+%28City+Muse+Country+Muse%29
Gorgeous writing. Thought you might be interested since you’re promoting national poetry month.
Jagoda, thanks for the link. I’ve been meaning to put together a list of blogs that incorporate poetry.
Loved this post & just what I needed to calm my day. Very moving the We Real Cool video, but it was the second one that really got to me, as he wasn’t afraid to admit his hesitance at coming to poetry and then being able to embrace it at its heart. So I could relate.
What a fantastic project. Thanks for the heads up. Must be a great resource in a classroom as well as for personal enrichment.
Thanks so much A.K. Looks like my hunch was right that The Favorite Poem Project was worth sharing with my readers. The two videos I featured in this post are some of my favorites. Gwendolyn Brook’s poem is so short, but is so full of emotion and possible interpretations. My innocent rural students would always ask, “What is gin?” only that would pronounce it with a “G” rather than the “J” sound at the beginning.
This is AWESOME! I’ve never heard of this but I’m definitely going to head on over to the site. I love the videos and the idea of sharing a poem, where people can hear the inflections in the voice, truly brings out the beauty of poetry. Thanks for sharing.
Denise, I knew this would be a poetry resource you would love. I need to get my playlist of spoken work YouTube videos back in order as well so I can share it someday down the road.
I always thought I was bad at poetry in school. I never “got it.” Kind of sad, isn’t it?
Jodi, that’s one of the downsides to studying poetry or any kind of literature in the classroom setting. I always approached poetry for the sake of poetry before I tried to get students to “get it.” Once they had fun playing with language and being silly, they were much more open to picking a poem’s meaning apart.
I love this idea. I find poetry a way to express words in a way I never could before. The simplest of lines can sum up my emotions perfectly. I absolutely love Robert Frost. In on of my recent classes, the professor use to have us read a poem each week from a different author and write about what the author is trying to say.
Elizabeth, poetry provides such a great exercise for the brain, whether we are reading it or writing it. Robert Frost is on my list of favorite poets as well.
The intro to We Real Cool almost made me cry. And now, with him being in Boston, all I can think is “I hope all his family and remaining friends are ok.”
Adrienne, the “We Real Cool” video does strike an emotional cord, doesn’t it? It’s definitely one of my favorites.
Oh, wish I had known about this. I would have taken part. My family has some incredible poetry. Or at least I think so. Their poems tell stories with a lesson attached. Thanks for sharing.
What a cool video and brilliant way of bringing poetry into the classroom! Poetry is too often thought of as staid and stuffy, when it illuminates the world around us so beautifully and touches our souls. Reading poetry, whether to yourself or aloud, is as healthy and necessary as vitamins – think of it as Vitamin “C” for creativity!
Krystyna, I like how you compare the necessity of poetry to the necessity of taking vitamins. It certainly makes me feel better about about reading Shakespeare aloud as an eighth grade student alone in my room, only to have my mom shake her head and ask what in the world I was up to. All I knew is that reading the lines aloud made me incredibly happy 🙂