We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman, “O me! O life!… of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless… of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?” Answer. That you are here – that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play *goes on* and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?

John Keating, Dead Poets Society

English teacher Kendra Nayman, her students, and I experienced the power of poetry today with our 2nd Annual Poetry Reading @The Unquiet Library.    Ms. Nayman and I first collaborated on our poetry reading project nearly a year ago in which students immersed themselves in all forms of poetry (virtually and via our awesome poetry collection), composed poems off photographs, and then shared their poems with our poetry reading, which was recorded with Audacity, converted into a MP3 file, and then synced with the slidedecks of students’ photographs.

I find it difficult to accurately articulate the powerful experience of poetry readings and the spoken word or the joy I feel in students participating in this kind of literate community.  Students shared a piece of themselves in a way that took courage to expose an innermost glimpse of themselves to their peers and us as adults.  The themes and ideas ranged from funny to reflective to heart-wrenching, and we shared both laughter and tears.  Many students were surprised by the bubbling over of emotions that often comes with the act of reading a poem, especially one’s own, as well as the talent of their peers and the pride they felt in sharing their poetry.

I feel incredibly lucky to have worked with Ms. Nayman and her classes for two consecutive years and to be part of a learning experience that will stay with these students far longer than some ridiculous,  shallow, and artificial standardized test that can’t even begin to scratch the surface of what students should come to know through experience about poetry. I want students to know that the library is a space that supports these kinds of learning experiences and inquiry; through experiences like today’s poetry reading, the library can help students discover “we read and write poetry because we are members of the human race.”

On Monday, I will blog the LibGuides “subject guide” I will create for this poetry reading, which will include:

I will also share more about our plans to publish the student work and integrate it into our collection in multiple ways.   Until Monday, please enjoy just a sampling of the student interview videos and an interview with Ms. Nayman as well!  I believe these videos reflect the importance of poetry  in today world’s and why poetry still matters.  More videos are available at The Unquiet Library YouTube Channel.


4 thoughts on “Finding Their Verses: Student Poetry Reading, Collaboration, and School Libraries

  1. Such great video clips from the kids–their enthusiasm is quite contagious. The videos show how powerful this was for so many kids. Thanks for sharing. Sounds like great fun!


  2. I love that even the boys got involved and excited. Well Done!

    One thing I would like to know is how much involvement did the students have with the technology side of this project?


  3. We all need a little poetry: rhymed or free verse, sonnet or sprung. You’ve taken poetry out of textbooks and brought it to life for these students. “Poetry is thoughts that breathe, and words that burn. ~Thomas Gray”


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