Friday, May 3, 2024

Friday Poem

Environmental & Science Education, Poetry, Art & Environment, Teaching and Learning

Ed Hessler

This is a departure for the Friday Poem "series." Using that seems way too pretentious.

Critic Alice Vendler died recently at age 90. (April 30, 1933 –  April 23, 2024). She was a towering figure, a colossus and beloved teacher at Harvard. Her course "Poems, Poets, Poetry" was a general distribution course that Harvard undergraduates could use to fulfill a distribution requirement in the humanities.

This meant that Vendler's students had no poetry aspirations. Many of them read their last poem in high school, perhaps even middle school with a "good riddance."  This course was a large lecture class and she makes good use of such a setting. 
Today I post a video of her teaching a poem - Among School Children by William Butler Yeats. It is a difficult poem, even more for students who are not interested in poetry. It is also long and this lesson was on the first four verses.

What I found valuable is Vendler's discussion of her preparation for the 15 minute segments into which she divided class time. Each segment of the video includes her talking about her preparation and then teaching the poem. The video presentation is quite a bit less than an hour.
Vendler taught without well-prepared, polished lecture notes but spent her time before class in preparing her remarks. She had a carefully thought out plan - an aim - and used it to reach it.

So there is Friday poem in two different versions: a discussion of a small part of the poem and if you want to read it, the complete poem.

Here is the lecture (41m 05s).

I hope you find it worth your time. It  was for me. I'd love to hear her lecture about a Sylvia Plath poem and several others!

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