Want to #TeachLivingPoets but feel like you don’t know where to start? Or where to find good poems? Then this post is for you. Here, you will find all kinds of resources to help you feel more knowledgeable and comfortable with teaching contemporary poetry in your classroom.
How to find poets
For a list of poets to follow, click here. At the bottom of the post, you will find a list of my favorite poets to follow.
I also check out articles published by respected literary sources for “top books of the year.” NCTE published this great list of 2018 Book Recommendations:Poetry inspired by all the teacher recommendations during an #NCTEchat on teaching living poets.
Finally, I listen to who the poets say are good. Who are they reading? Who is currently writing that they are inspired by? I love reading the Acknowledgements page to see who thanks who. If I keep seeing the same popping up, that signals to me that I should probably get their book.
Sarah Soper is always adding new poets and poems to this amazing #TeachLivingPoets list of modern poems that we have taught in our classes that students have responded well to, along with some ideas of themes or activities that could go with them.
#TeachLivingPoets Twitter chat
Did you know there’s a monthly #TeachLivingPoets Twitter chat? It’s at 8:30-9pm EST and usually falls on the last Tuesday of each month. We’ve discussed poems by Clint Smith, Elizabeth Acevedo, Aimee Nezhukumatathil, and José Olivarez. Poem links and questions are always tweeted out ahead of time to allow time to read the poem and gather your thoughts beforehand. Our next chat will be on the poem “If They Should Come For Us” by Fatimah Asghar on Nov 27. We’ll discuss our thoughts on the poem itself and strategies to use in your classroom to teach it.
Databases to search poems
Are you ever like, “I need an erasure poem about birds” or “I need a poem by a Muslim poet from Michigan”? Look no further than these useful data bases that allow you to enter search criteria to find something specific you need!
Split This Rock is super useful and I use it often. This social justice poetry database allows you to search by poet name, key word, format, language, geography (of poet), poet identity (which includes ethnicity, religion, sexual preference, gender, and social class), and finally, theme. And they ONLY include contemporary poems so no need to sift through a bunch of old stuff to find yourself a living poet!
A national poetry competition for students, the Poetry Out Loud website allows you to search by poet name, title, and poetic forms and terms.
The Academy of American Poets allows you to search by occasion, theme, form, or schools and movements.
Lessons ready to go
I have taken many poems and lessons from the Young Chicago Authors blog written by poet and educator José Olivarez. Here you will find 30 lessons that include a pre-writing activity, mentor poems, and a writing prompt. It’s a fantastic resource.
Teach This Poem “is a weekly series featuring a poem from our online poetry collection, accompanied by interdisciplinary resources and activities designed to help K-12 teachers quickly and easily bring poetry into the classroom” (Academy of American Poets). Signing up means you get an entire lesson plan for teaching a poem sent to your Inbox about one a week automatically.
You can also find engaging lessons on this Teachlivingpoets.com blog, such as:
- Teaching Clint Smith’s “There is a Lake Here”
- Strategies for teaching poetry collections
- Fun poetry prompts inspired by mentor poems:
Wakelet for paired poems
A collaborative effort by teachers all over the country, and curated by educator Kristin Runyon, this resource pairs contemporary poem with canonical. “This collection of pairings started out as a whim inspired by the #NCTEchat leading up to National Poetry Month. The project, however, has become a personal challenge to find works by living poets not curated by another educational source… I have been introduced to many new poets and poems that I am excited to share with my high school students.”
I suggest checking out this lesson comparing Gwendolyn Brooks’s “We Real Cool” and Terrance Hayes’s “The Golden Shovel.” It has everything you would need and is ready for you to teach it in your class tomorrow.
Podcasts are a great way to learn about current poets. Here are my three favorite podcasts, in no particular order.
Vs., hosted by Franny Choi and Danez Smith, sponsored by The Poetry Foundation
The Poet Salon, hosted by Dujie Tahat, Gabrielle Bates, and Luther Hughes
Commonplace, Conversations with Poets (and Other People), hosted by Rachel Zucker
The Poetry Gods, hosted by José Olivarez, Jon Sands, and Aziza Barnes
Newsletters & Book Clubs
You can get a poem sent to your Inbox every day for free by the Academy of American Poets with their Poem-a-day program. Poems will often come with a blurb by the poet that explains a little bit about the inspiration for writing the poem or some other useful information.
I absolutely love being a member of The Rumpus poetry book club. It’s not free, BUT it’s well worth it. Every month, I get a new poetry book in my mailbox! I mean, who doesn’t love getting treats in the mail? (From their website): “Every month we’ll choose a forthcoming poetry book, not yet available to the public. At the end of the month, we’ll host an exclusive online discussion with the book club and the author. We’ll publish an edited version of the discussion on The Rumpus the following month—to see what that looks like, go here. We’ve featured poets like Tracy K. Smith, Jericho Brown, Solmaz Sharif, Kaveh Akbar, Gabrielle Calvocoressi, Eloisa Amezcua, Tarfia Faizullah, and Kamilah Aisha Moon. Upcoming poets include Natasha Tretheway, Marwa Helal, Sally Wen Mao, Hala Alyan, Ilya Kominsky, Franny Choi, Natalie Scenters-Zapico, and more!”
Educators Joél Garza and Scott Bayer co-host the monthly #THEBOOKCHAT Twitter chat. Among the many thought-provoking books they’ve focused on, three of them are poetry collections. Their hyperdocs are phenomenal resources you can use immediately in your classroom. I use the Clint Smith one myself as part of my summer reading assignment.
Counting Descent by Clint Smith hyperdoc
Citizen by Claudia Rankine hyperdoc
Citizen Illegal by José Olivarez hyperdoc
Local colleges and universities are great places to look for free events and readings. I usually find the best info on English Language Arts department pages. For example, I discovered Clint Smith is coming for another reading at Davidson College, his alma mater, during our spring break. My students read Counting Descent for summer reading and they were excited to meet him in person and get their books signed.
Are there any literary festivals near you? This past year, we attended a free Literary Festival hosted by University of North Carolina-Charlotte, which featured a reading and Q&A with Nikky Finney and Eduardo C Corral.