Lisa Hiton, poet, filmmaker, professor, writer
I do understand and empathize with many of the questions and answers above. However, as a poet and arts educator, I'm going to do my do diligence to respond to this with a slightly firmer hand:
Whether or not a person "likes" and content area is worth nothing for or against the content area. I tell my students this often when they don't "like" a novel or poem that is on the syllabus; it's of no consequence to, say, Toni Morrison that you do not "like" Beloved, it's of no consequence to Sylvia Plath that you do not like or even understand "Lady Lazarus", the texts are beyond reproach.
I'm not sure of the age of your son, but here are some ways you might begin to enter poetry with him: Poetry was born of an oral tradition. It would behoove both of you to read the poems aloud. Have him listen without looking at the page. Ask him what he heard. Who does he think the speaker is? Why is it the speaker has the urge or urgency to say this? Why in this tone? Why now? Poetry is a rare form because it is SLOWER. IT REWARDS SLOWNESS! What a great counter to our multi-tasking, fast-paced, ADD-prone way of life! Read the poem over and over. Think of it more like listening to a beloved song.
You might also find poets reading their work aloud: - America's Favorite Poem Project was begun by Robert Pinsky during his tenure as Poet Laureate. There are many resources online and in text that you can order of people simply sharing their favorite poems. When it begins with love and passion instead of resistance, that seems to be less pressure. - Poetry Out Loud is another program started by a Poet Laureate (ok, it's Billy Collins, and I'm the opposite of a fan of his, but this program is one good thing he has done...) which has young students all over the country reading poems out loud. There are many online materials and videos of students performing some of the most famous poems out there. - LOUDER THAN A BOMB. This may single-handedly be one of the most relevant grassroots movements in the country right now. There is an amazing documentary about the program, which to my knowledge, can still be screened on instant Netflix. Youtube videos of students doing slam poetry performances of poems they wrote are abundant. There are also team poems. Two years ago, when Rahm Emmanuel closed a huge amount of CPS schools, he attended LTAB only to discover a class of second graders performing a slam poem about their school closing. Now that is potent!
For younger children, here are a few books I always recommend as early reading anthologies:
- The Random House book of Poems for Young Children
- Poetry for Young People by Edna St. Vincent Millay
- Ballad of the Harp-Weaver by Edna St. Vincent Millay
- Dirty Dinky and Other Creatures: Poems for Children by Theodore Roethke
- Rose, Where Did You Get That? Teaching Great Poetry to Children by Kenneth Koch
I would also encourage you to take a look at poetry worksheets that professors of poetry (poetics, but also, more accessibly, those who teach the writing of poetry) use for workshops. I find that there is minimal access to the work poets truly do for those who are not enrolled in a workshop with a poet. There is too much an air of mystery. One new resource for that is Lightbox Poetry at http://lightboxpoetry.com/
Writing is an art that is not appreciated like other genres for many reasons. For example, non-musicians rarely complain about having to listen to it or even study it. If you can alleviate yourself of stigmas and treat it the same way you would visual art or music (everyone you know, no matter how anti-art they are, has a favorite song...) you and your son might be able to FEEL a poem's ability to rule you, even just in the instance of its reading. And that feeling is the whole point. The big problem in this country seems to be that we don't just hear a poem for love first. We never encounter poems and then out of nowhere we are given one and asked to analyze. By simply approaching it as any other encounter with art--with a voice, with a story, with a sensation--a lot can be achieved quite quickly.
I'm happy to follow this conversation and continue adding resources as I hear more about what's being asked of your son (writing or reading) as well as his grade-level so I can curate the resources to it. GOOD LUCK!