Exploring poetry through imagination, emotion, craft and complexity

A New Literature Companion for Teachers, 3rd edition by Lorraine McDonald


The complex richness and power of the English language is where the reader/listener finds pleasure: the poem’s use of imagination, projected emotions and crafted word play. Easy poems to chant, and poems ‘that require intelligence’ and ‘that will reconstruct the brain and make it one room larger’ (Corbett, 2008, p.90) are all part of offering students enjoyable poetry experiences. In your classroom, ask students to ‘Tell me’, then, in discussion, observe their comments on likes, dislikes, puzzles and patterns.


Exploring these four concepts (imagination, emotions, craft and complexity) can guide students to point to original and creative moments that show the poet’s imagination, to talk about the emotion the poem invokes and to name what they do not understand. They may observe the complex parts that force them away from literal comprehension towards higher-order thinking. In doing so, readers will discover the craftsmanship of poetry and may approach poetry from a framework that does not involve the line-by-line analysis used so often to detrimental effect on students’ enjoyment of poetry.

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