The Art of Poetry is a great resource for those who are more interested in understanding and appreciating poetry than writing it. The publisher identifies this text as appropriate for middle school or high school. If you want to use it with middle school students, you should do as the author suggests and “cull the lessons for key points that you’d like them to receive and ignore more in-depth subject material” (p. ix). Using the book selectively, makes it practical for those at an introductory level as well as for those who want to host a poetry slam. I think it should work especially well for a group class.
There are two critical components: the student book and the teacher's edition. An optional set of DVDs features the author teaching a small group class through the entire book—more than fifteen hours of instruction.
The Art of Poetry is essentially a collection of poems, each followed by a series of questions that deal with both content and technique. The first eight chapters focus on elements of poetry such as images, metaphors, rhythm, and tone. The next seven chapters shift into a deeper study of the forms and development of poetry through history. At the end of the book an “Application” section has a chapter devoted to those who want to continue to work with poetry by starting a poetry group, creating a writer’s journal, holding a poetry slam or public recitation, hosting a reading series or a “summer camp,” and finding mentors.
This book teaches students how to “closely read” a poem. While it demands more effort than some other resources, it will stimulate students’ thinking and take them to a deeper level of appreciation. While it does not require students to write their own poetry, it provides a great foundation for those who wish to do so. The author writes from a Christian perspective but not in a heavy-handed fashion. Many poems include direct or indirect allusions to God and spiritual issues as they might be dealt with in a classical education setting.