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No, poetry is not such a hard nut to crack

Saturday March 23 2013

By VIVERE NANDIEMO

It is disheartening that poetry has taken a back seat in the mainstream literature studied in our schools, yet literature scholars and other contributors to these pages have given this topic a wide berth.

Poetry has been shunned in our schools — by teachers and students alike — on the flimsy grounds that the genre is a hard nut to crack.

This apathy has been greatly encouraged by the teachers who have failed to inspire students to embrace poetry, instead concentrating on other genres of literature.

Ironically, schools usually take part in the annual music festivals, where they win accolades and their students are praised for their poetic compositions. This means creativity in our students is palpable, only that it is not being tapped.

To enhance the enjoyment in poetry in our classrooms, students should be guided to appreciate their own forms of expression as they do at the music festivals. This should then be followed by the introduction of the students to simple poems.

Teachers go wrong when they introduce students to complex poems that make them feel that poetry is never meant to be understood.

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It is hard to introduce a poem like Claude Mackay’s I Shall Return to Form One students instead of easily understood poems such as Marjorie Oludhe’s A Freedom Song and Ralph Bitamazire’s I Love You My Gentle One.

In many schools, learners are exposed to poetry in Form Three and Form Four with the sole purpose of tackling questions in the final examinations. This is a great disservice to the students. The foundation we lay in forms one and two is very crucial.

We must, therefore, start from the simplest poems to the most difficult and unusual.

Poetry cannot be taught in the same way as subjects like history. A poetry class should be interactive and enjoyable.

Vivere Nandiemo teaches Literature at Ikerege High School in Kuria, Migori County