Poetry For People Who Don’t Like Poetry

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I know what you might be thinking – poetry is not your thing. But let me tell you, there’s a whole world of poems out there that can truly captivate your attention. As an experienced poetry teacher, I’ve come across countless poems that are relatable, engaging, and far from boring. Today, I want to share with you my top 10 poem suggestions for those who struggle with poetry. Trust me, these poems will change your perspective and make you fall in love with the art of words.

“Baked Goods” by Aimee Nezhukumatathil

When it comes to engaging poems, “Baked Goods” by Aimee Nezhukumatathil takes the cake. In my years of teaching, I’ve found that students often complain about the depressing nature of literature. This charming poem brings a breath of fresh air with its warm message about love amidst chaos and anger. Nezhukumatathil weaves a tale that delves deep into the contrasts of life, making it relatable and thought-provoking. Plus, who wouldn’t want to bring muffins to class while discussing this poem?

“the drone” by Clint Smith

Clint Smith is a poet whose collection, “Counting Descent,” is a treasure trove for poetry enthusiasts. One poem that stands out is “the drone.” This poem not only introduces students to a new form of poetry with its prose structure, but it also tackles relevant and interesting themes. Through personification, Smith invites us to question when a drone becomes as evil as a person. It’s a poem that will leave you pondering long after you’ve read it.

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List of favorite poems for AP Lit
Here’s a list of my ten favorite poems to teach in my AP English Lit class.

“Gate A-4” by Naomi Shihab Nye

During the tumultuous times of the Covid shutdown, “Gate A-4” by Naomi Shihab Nye gained popularity for its demonstration of human goodness and our desire for connections. This longer narrative poem is incredibly accessible and carries a powerful message about crossing cultural lines. If you’re looking for an engaging introductory lesson or want to explore themes, this poem is a perfect choice.

“Forgetfulness” by Billy Collins

Enter Billy Collins, a poet known for his relatable and engaging poems. “Forgetfulness” is a humorous take on the universal experience of forgetting things we once learned. Collins takes us on a journey of recalling the Pythagorean theory and mythological references, invoking a sense of shared forgetfulness among readers. In this poem, finding the universal feeling or experience is easy, making it a hit among students.

“Porphyria’s Lover” by Robert Browning

For those with a taste for the macabre, “Porphyria’s Lover” by Robert Browning is a twisted delight. This poem challenges us to unravel the speaker’s motives: Did he kill out of love or something more sinister? With its symbolism and allusions, this poem invites creative interpretations and deep discussions. It’s a perfect choice to ignite your students’ imaginations.

More poem ideas for AP Lit
Of course, I couldn’t be satisfied with just 10 poems, so here are 10 more poem ideas for AP Lit!

“Good Bones” by Maggie Smith

On the surface, “Good Bones” by Maggie Smith might seem bleak, but it carries an important message about finding hope amidst the darkness. This poem bluntly acknowledges the harsh realities of life while expressing a sense of optimism for future generations. While it does contain a curse word, it’s a powerful piece that can be saved for your more advanced students. If you’re interested, there’s also a short film on YouTube that pairs beautifully with this poem.

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“I, Too” by Langston Hughes

Langston Hughes’ “I, Too” is a poem that holds profound understanding within its lines. It challenges the notion that literature about racism aims to instill guilt in white readers. Instead, Hughes presents a powerful response to this perspective. The poem depicts the speaker’s resilience in the face of discrimination, showcasing a surprisingly passive yet hopeful attitude. This poem will spark meaningful discussions about race, identity, and exclusion.

“The Illiterate” by William Meredith

“The Illiterate” by William Meredith presents a layered and emotionally charged message through the eyes of an illiterate man. As he receives a letter he can’t read, his emotions fluctuate, imagining all the possible messages it could contain. This poem offers a unique opportunity to explore complex emotions and connects them to relatable experiences, such as teenage hormones and the anticipation of possible outcomes. It’s a poem that will resonate with your students on a personal level.

“Wide Receiver” by Mark Halliday

Finding literature about sports can be challenging, but “Wide Receiver” by Mark Halliday is a gem in this genre. Through the perspective of a football player waiting for a pass, the poem explores bitterness and the desire to prove oneself. The speaker’s attitude of “just let me try” mirrors the determined and hopeful mindset that many teenagers possess. It’s a poem that captures the essence of youthful ambition and resilience.

“This is Just to Say” by William Carlos Williams

Let me finish off with a personal anecdote about “This is Just to Say” by William Carlos Williams. A student of mine once believed that poetry was too difficult to understand and write. However, this poem proved her wrong. It expresses a complex sentiment with simplicity and humor, showing her that poetry doesn’t have to be a riddle. Inspired, she now explores short-form poems similar to Williams’ style. It’s a testament to the power of poetry to inspire and unlock creativity.

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So, there you have it – my top 10 poem suggestions for those who claim not to like poetry. These poems are engaging, relatable, and thought-provoking. Give them a chance, and who knows, you might just discover a newfound love for the beauty of words. If you have any other engaging poems that you love to teach, feel free to leave a comment and let me know!


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