I taught my first poetry class today to the seniors at Harvest Hill in Lebanon, N.H. If the chatter and happy faces were any indication, the class was a great success. I'm calling it a Poetry Appreciation Workshop as we are exploring what poetry is and why we like it. We talked about how writing poetry can be intimidating, but some of the students noted that poetry is something people cherish, frame, manipulate. The condensed nature of poetry makes it easy to return to ponder, memorize, read again and again, to actually touch and frame. In this way it is different than a novel or a longer literary form. It was fun to hear these perceptions. One student brought in her father's tiny pocket book of Burns poems, its cover worn to a smooth shell. It seems he carried it in his pocket throughout World War I. She told how as a child they would take walks and he would recite Burns poetry from the gate onward. One student became excited reciting childhood nursing rhymes and soon we were all joining in filling in the words. We recalled the joy of first experiencing the rhythm and music of these verses. We shared a common bond. I look forward to the next five weeks but its going to be a challenge. This is a smart, perceptive group.
Question: What makes a Poem a Poem?