Why People Hate Poetry? Because Schools have Taught them to Hate Poetry!

Why people hate poetry? Because schools did not teach them “to love poetry” but they actually taught them “to hate poets and their poetry”. If you want students “to hate poetry” ask them to (1) write explanations (tashreeh) of poems, and (2) memorize life history and style (tarz-e-kalam) of poets, (3) associate grades with their learning of poetry, (4) make poetry a mind-activity instead of a heart-activity, (5) value subjects according to their potential for earning and employ-ability. The schools have sucked the life out of poetry by forcing the students to consider it as an object devoid of life, feelings and emotions, something that resides in mind and not in heart. Poetry is about feelings and emotions and expressing those emotions through similes and metaphors. Poetry is not about dissecting in a pedantic sort of the way why, when and how to write and appreciate good poetry. Unfortunately, schools specialize in making the students hate poetry through all the above ways.

Instead of teaching poetry as an object that exists outside the students, teachers should try to make it sprout inside the students and make it pulsate with their feelings and emotions. You can not understand poetry through your mind. It first has to be felt in the heart and from heart its realizations should be allowed to rise up into the mind at their own pace; a process which may take years or even decades. Poetry is a cathartic experience. It uplifts our spirit when we are depressed, lonely, distressed and melancholy. It gives us company when we are happy, joyful and delighted. It aids us when we are afraid and terrorized. It soothes us when we are sad. It should be our friend and not foe. Schools, however, use it to humiliate us and fail us. No wonder we hate it so much.

Recently I met Ms Ilsa Raschid who has done wonders with our kids at my school. She is a living embodiment of making poetry and love for poetry a contagious diseases:

Poetry is a contagious disease. It can not be taught, it can only be caught. And, it can only be caught from someone who already has the disease. [Modified Quote]

She has used “Spoken Word Poetry” to inspire the kids and has managed to infect our students with the contagious disease of loving the poetry. We say her demonstration in one class section at IoBM where students were crying while composing the poetry. People who thought they hated poetry were writing the poetry by the time the session ended.

We appreciate different types of poems at different times in the context of the specific situations. Once upon a time, there were people who could recite poetry relevant to any given occasion, and could recite a couplet pertinent to any given situation. In fact, the status of erudition of an educated person was measured by his ability to connect a given situation to the relevant couplets and poems from a grand master poet. Their expression of feelings was judged by their ability to recite from master poets. The next level was judged by their ability to recite from their own composition. Highest level of erudition was considered to be their deep immersion in experience to an extent where emotions in the form of poetry bubble out instantaneously and effortlessly. Their renditions were not labored and contrived and were a natural and a mellifluous flow or river of ideas. At times the emotions would be gushing out as torrents.

Dead Poets Society:

The best contrast of the way poetry need to be taught and felt is admirably portrayed in this wonderful movie “Dead Poets Society”. The traditional teaching deadens the nerves and makes the students hate poetry. The unconventional ways in which poetry can be taught is shown by John Keating character in this movie. Although the extreme shown is not to be recommended but the way the teacher instills in the children the love for poetry is really stupendous. Must see for all the teachers.

The movie taught me to appreciate classical music. It introduced me to the wonderful feeling of elation that one feels when when listens to the 4th and 5th Piano Concerto by Beethoven, it introduced to me the wonder of Ode to Joy from Beethoven’s 9th symphony and also the mellifluousness of Handel’s Water Music. After seeing this movie in 1989 in the Barton Creek Mall of Austin, I sought out these pieces and have listened to them again and again till today. Must have listened to them for hundreds of times each. 


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