Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Poetry Found?

Do you see it? I didn't.
A celebration of National Poetry Month is in full swing at school. Between prepping the "release" of our Hallway Haiku Project signage after next week's Spring Break, and working on individual American sentences (that will later be combined into collaborative poems), one of the students in my Advanced Placement class made an interesting observation that further illustrated my premise for students that poetry really is everywhere. As trite as it may sound the exchange also created a "teachable moment," (groan!) during which some previously unknown (and truly "nice to know" in nature) information could be shared with my class.

As I circulated around the classroom offering assistance with syllable counting and image shaping, one lad prompted me to look carefully at the recently hung writing framework signage in the front of our classroom. The air was ripe with discussion and consideration of a variety of haiku formats, as well as "found poetry" (a form I explained to students--who had oddly never been exposed to it--by explaining about the 5-7-5 hand washing reminder I came across in the hospital men's room years ago), so it makes sense that the sharpest students would begin to apply their poetic mindset to their surroundings... and once again I was shown that the student quickly becomes the master.

Upon first glance at the aforementioned signage, I sincerely had little idea what I was intended to observe in the poster. "What does that sign look like?" the student prompted me once again.

Despite my having actually having been part of the committee that generated it, I had failed to notice (or clearly see) what my student had. Pointing to it again, he revealed, "It's got seventeen syllables like a haiku."

After congratulating the student for innately processing the syllable count (without clapping it) of he signage around him, I wondered aloud with the class whether or not that though the phrase "All evidence must be/supported with/details and analysis"  did indeed meet the strict syllable count requirement learned since kindergarten about what a haiku is... but was that enough to label it a haiku poem? Lacking a kigo or cutting word (or punctuation), it seemed clear that it was not a haiku in the strictest sense, but could it be presented as such with some syntax rearrangement or punctuation? The syllables (and words) could easily be set in a haiku 5-7-5 format, thusly:
All evidence must (5)
be supported with details (7)
and analysis. (5)
While a traditional image is absent, this found poem might better fit under the "heading" of a senyru rather than haiku (senryĆ« is a Japanese form of short poetry similar to haiku in construction that tends to be about human foibles rather than nature, and are often cynical or darkly humorous than the more  serious haiku. SenryĆ« also do not include a  cutting word, and do not generally include a kigo, or season word.) There are few things more cynically received than a new writing framework shared to a group of educators comfortable with an existing state.

Now, that's getting really Zen...

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