ERIC Number: ED329992
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1990-Nov
Reference Count: N/A
Reclaiming the Body: Teaching Modern Poetry by Ignoring Meaning.
Many students think of poetry as a meaning to be figured out, a puzzle to be solved--as if poets were forever doomed to write only what they never quite mean and to mean what they never actually write. The struggle to discover meaning becomes acute with that distinctly modern poetry created by T. S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, Wallace Stevens, and their contemporaries and heirs. The misconception is that what a person gets from art is meaning and that having gotten it he or she has experienced a work of art. The opposite is true. The more diligently meaning is pursued to the exclusion of all else, the less the work of art is experienced, because the pursuit of meaning alone misses the obvious: all art is physical. The way to "get" art is to take its body and vicariously live the total sensory experience it presents. Eliot's "The Waste Land," Stevens'"Thirteen Ways of Looking at A Blackbird," and Williams'"The Red Wheelbarrow" illustrate the difficulty of teaching the "meaning" of the poem, though each of these demonstrates how physical poetry is. Three possible body-centered activities to motivate students to explore a poem until they begin to imaginatively experience it are: (1) to draw a picture of the poem; (2) to make a video of the poem; and (3) to perform the poem as a play. (TD)
Publication Type: Speeches/Meeting Papers; Guides - Classroom - Teacher; Opinion Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers: Literary Response
Note: Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the National Council of Teachers of English (80th, Atlanta, GA, November 16-21, 1990).