The Death of Poetry in Australian Classrooms

One of the projects I have been working on recently is a collaborative article with Melbourne based poet and educator, Ashley Capes titled, The death of poetry in Australian classrooms. The article is has gone live today on Cordite as part of their Zombie issue, so head on over and check it out. Both Ashley and I hope the article sparks much discussion, so please be sure to leave a comment… I know we will both be checking in regularly to jump on board the thread of conversation/debate.

And while we are talking poetry in schools, I was forwarded a link recently by Kate Eltham, to a great site called 30 Poets 30 Days. The site will publish a new poem for young people every day during the month of April (National Poetry Month in the States), so if you are looking for new poetry to use in your classroom, or to share with the kids (or heaven forbid, enjoy yourself!), this may be a great place to start!



Filed under poetry & publishing

8 responses to “The Death of Poetry in Australian Classrooms

  1. Thanks for the 30 Poets/30 Days link! This year should offer poems for kids and their adults, too. There are lots of other poems at my blog as well, including my own AND the 30 poems from last year’s 30 Poets/30 Days extravaganza: (or if that fails, they’re available from the announcement post here:

  2. Congratulations on a terrific article which is bound to get a conversation happening regarding this important issue. To me the key issue is how to make poetry connect with students, because quite frankly poetry can be very elitist and hard to understand (and that will always be the case predominantly) – you need to get your foot in the door by using some techniques which most students will welcome and you touched on it in the article (eg. getting poets into schools, poetry readings out loud rather than just the text). The conversation has started – let it roll on.

    • gnunn

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this one Gabe. Poets in schools is something I am really passionate about. I have been lucky to work in many schools as a visiting poet now and everytime, I come away enthused that there are young people out there as excited about language as I am. And I totally agree… student readings are a great way of getting parents and the community involved.

  3. Absolutely! I’d love to hear what people think about some of the issues we’ve raised.
    Thanks, Grabrielle, and I agree, getting poets into schools and getting poetry more active would be great.

  4. Same comment I made over at Cordite (who rejected my Zombie poem in which the humans win) – Brilliant article. It still stuns me that anyone (especially professional educators) think that you can teach language without teaching poetry. It’s not possible.

    • gnunn

      It is amazing that people even think that poety can be neglected in an English curriculum… the sense of fear surrounding the teaching of poetry needs to be clawed at and torn down.

  5. Hi Graham,
    Please allow me a comment on your “death of poetry in classrooms” article. I’ve read a few articles of this nature over the years and one aspect that rarely seems to be addressed is that if poets want a school-based audience perhaps they should try writing for that audience, rather than expecting that teachers/educators should choose current Australian poetry simply because it is current and Australian. Perhaps poetry is being relegated in certain classrooms because teachers can’t find any that excites their students?
    Perhaps the problem is not in the teachers, the educators, the publishers… but in the poets themselves. As is quoted in the article, “most people ignore…” (by the way, in the article it’s attributed to Adrian Henri… it’s by Adrian Mitchell).
    How many australian poets do you know who write books specifically for children or young adults? The only poets I can think of are me, Elizabeth Honey, and Margaret Wild – and on the NSW Text List (as you mention) are books by Margaret and myself. Doesn’t that surely imply that books that are written and appeal to this audience will be taken up and appreciated by teachers and educators.
    I’ve spent twenty years writing for this audience – my eighteen books are all still available and fifteen have gone into multiple reprints and many are studied throughout Australia (including on the NSW HSC Area of Study List). Never do I read articles by poets saying ‘hey, isn’t this great, that a contemporary Australian poet is studied alongside Shakespeare, Dickens, Arthur Miller, and Emily Dickinson). Perhaps because I’m seen as not really a poet – more a (shudder) children’s author?
    For the past twenty years I’ve visited over 200 schools every years throughout fifteen countries and the constant refrain I hear from teachers is not ‘that they don’t know how to teach it’ but ‘they can’t find the type of poetry they want to teach’.
    What teachers and educators (and indeed the Australian public) needs is for our poets to start writing poems that appeal to them. As I’ve said many times, if only we poets would open our eyes to the huge, responsive audience in front of us, then the future of poetry (and literacy) in this country would be bright indeed.

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