On teaching a poem

On teaching a poem

I hated the way, ‘The solitary reaper’ was taught
by a Maths teacher substituting for our English one
He explained every metaphor in so much detail
that he took out all the beauty from the whole
Poignant pauses lost their silence
serene images broke like shattered glass
the soothing melody of Wordsworth’s pen
turned into a cacophony of explanations
I wished he would leave us alone
The haunting sadness was not his forte
Of method and shapes he was the master
but he failed to catch the floating notes
A poem is sometimes best if left alone
to be cut, reaped and bound in solitude
The Solitary Reaper was that day, a real lonely lass
made to suffer in silence in a mathematician’s class


6 thoughts on “On teaching a poem

  1. “A poem is sometimes best if left alone” <— I wish more people understood this with their hearts! I completely agree that many times, to analyze and pick a poem apart for its devices and the forms used, etc. is to destroy what makes it a beautiful or powerful poem in the first place!

    It is like those scientific people who pin butterflies as specimens…they (the butterflies) may still be beautiful to look at, but they (the people) have killed them and stolen the spark of life that makes them so amazing. I think sometimes people "collect" poems or poets the same way they might "collect" butterflies…and those people will probably never understand what you are talking about here, because it is a knowledge that comes from deep inside and cannot be taught.


    1. Thank you Corina! You said it !! I have mourned about some classic poems while at school, bcause I treasured them for what the poet had deliberately and intuitively left unsaid..and I had to suffer being taught word by word, dissected and given standard dictionary meanings and some how those poems seemed to become public property and not those delicate collection of words that I treasured….disrobed for all to see….


  2. The teacher of poetry can make all the difference to your love for poems and the way one begins to appreciate its nuances. I was so very lucky to have had a Principal , Mother Gabrielle who not only familiarised us with lots of lovely poems, apart from the ones that were included in our textbooks, but also held regular elocution competitions for which she prepared us with countless rehearsals , making sure we placed the right empahsis on the diction and voice modulation for proper expression of the subject in the poem.


    1. Wow Nadira! That was lovely ! My love of poetry came from hearing Julius Caesar being recited word by word from memory by our Vice-principal Mr. Bob D’ costa..who has unfortunately never taught us English and Mrs Acquilla who taught us English from grade 1-4.. . My English teachers later on, were staid bores who could never understand any puns, inflections, imagery etc…. but it did not matter ..for the love for reading had been instilled by then! Thank you for sharing that with me ! 🙂


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