Does anyone remember the poetry unit in high school? I sure do, and I think that's why I didn't bother reading poetry again for many years. Then again, who could blame me? We were taught to commit all of our focus to deriving meaning from tone, rhythm, context, and word choice that we never had time to consider (what I think) is the entire point of poetry... how the poem makes us feel.
Poetry shouldn't just be a scientific process where we read step-by-step and break down every single word and beat. Poetry should resonate and compel readers. It should motivate us to reflect on things we have felt or wished we felt within our lives. Reading poetry should be intuitive.
Poetry is an art form and should be treated as such. It shouldn't be just observed, measured and reproduced. There is no formula for the perfect poem or poet because we all derive different meanings from different forms of poetry. It's all about how we individually feel when we read those words on paper.
It's ineffective for poetry to be taught like another unit of grammar. High schools should be encouraging students to embrace poetry in a less methodical manner. Instead of approaching the text with a range of analyses to complete, there should be a larger emphasis of expressing emotion through writing and exploring poetry of all kinds, both classical and modern. There should also be education on more contemporary forms such as slam poetry and its implications.
Poetry should be a tool used to elicit emotional release rather than educational anxiety. I believe it is said best by the late Robin Williams' character in the famous movie, "Dead Poets' Society":
"We don't read and write poetry because it's cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman, "O me! O life!... of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless... of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?" Answer. That you are here - that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play *goes on* and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?"
- John Keating, "Dead Poets Society"