Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

Archive for the tag “Language Arts”

There is no rhyme nor reason to poetry…

at least according to some of my freshmen.  I can understand their point. Who wants to study grammatically incorrect phrasings and try to make sense of what they are talking about when you are doing all you can at trying to get a handle on whether it’s “A” day or “B” day and what lunch you have (“ummm, first lunch on “A” day or was that “B” day?). But we’ve made a commitment to Common Core and it’s full speed ahead.

Cover of "Dead Poets Society"

Cover of Dead Poets Society

Actually, I’ve always been a proponent of poetry.  I’ve brought cowboy poets into the classroom, Beatle songs, clips of Robin Williams doing his crazy wonderful teacher in Dead Poets Society, and provided recipes for poems.  I had football players writing love poems and entering contests, mud boggers writing sonnets about their trucks. We’ve explored performance poetry through Taylor Mali’s incredible YouTube videos and we’ve participated in a packed-out community program of youth performing their own poetry.

Common Core though, I’ve noticed, has dented my zing. I’ve been having students prepare for their SBAC (I should know what that means) by writing up reaction paragraphs to each poem as a means of them practicing their critical thinking skills. There is nothing wrong with understanding and recognizing how, or what, or why the poem works, yet poetry is so different from prose. It should encourage the soul to sing. I’m afraid in my zeal for my students to do well on their tests by getting their writing skills up to stuff I’ve lost my way towards my original goal of greeting me with “What’s the poem today?” with that anticipation of a new flavor to relish.

Hmm, some Walt  Whitman and Song of Myself might do it…

Cover of "Song of Myself (Shambhala Centa...

Cover via Amazon

The Morphing of the Omni Narrator

Right now we are toughing out poetry with my freshmen. *sigh* “We study poetry because oral storytelling came before the written language came into existence, plus many of the elements we study in poetry exist in fiction–you know, like imagery, diction, syntax, metaphors, analogies–so get to know poetry and you’ll understand and enjoy fiction that much more.”  And the question? (Jeopardy music, please)

Why do we study poetry?

Returning to the anticipated second quarter…(quick, quick, I’m losing them)

Once I get to short stories in the curriculum it’s pretty easy sailing, since my students are versed in plot, characters, setting, and such. Theme sometimes throws them; however, point-of-view gets them pondering. For instance, trying to explain the omniscient narrator is tricky these days. Back when, I used to say, “The Omniscient narrator is a lot like God–you know, everywhere and knowing everything about everybody.” I’m getting less comfortable about using that analogy in such a forthright manner.  I still believe it’s a valid analogy, yet don’t want to offend any of my students.  Let alone get the ACLU or other NSA types coming after me.

Cover of "The Long Winter"

Cover of The Long Winter

Another problem with trying to explain the omniscient narrator is that the old-fashioned version of the narrator filling into the details has changed into something quite different. For instance, I recently reread The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder (don’t snicker, it’s a great read, besides it’s for research–really) and Wilder includes in the story what’s happening to the town’s people and to Almanzo and Cap who are all caught up in a grueling blizzard, in an inclusive fluid manner.  I rarely come across this type of narrative style today. As Bob Dylan once said, “Times they are achanging.”

In the last few years I have noticed a trend where the omni narrative is now designated as separate chapters.  This at first proved quite annoying because the point-of-view kept changing. One chapter would be one character, the next a completely different one.  I felt like I was juggling characters to the point of wanting to run an Excel sheet to keep it all straight.

The last few novels I’ve read have run this narrative style, and every new book I’m pulling from my suggestion list and review newspapers seem to be pandering this new style. I keep checking them out though.  I’m either getting used to this new kaleidoscopic style of story-telling or I’m so starved to read I’m willing to put up with it.

Here are some examples of recent titles with the switch-hit character changing technique. Enjoyable reads all, but fret and nuisance, doesn’t anyone write in the old-time omni narrative style anymore?



















Any thoughts, Book Boosters?

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