Motivation for Poetry Appreciation

Hi! Good Day!
Next week I will be teaching poetry in my class. Based on my observation my pupils do not appreciate poetry anymore .Probably they find it more difficult to understand than prose. Can you suggest of any motivation to encourage my pupils to appreciate poetry more?
Thanks .I will truly appreciate it very much if you can help me.

They need to hear it read well. Poetry is no good unless you can hear it skillfully read out loud.

I am a big fan of Robert Frost. These poems might help get them excited about poetry:

The Road Not Taken
Mending Wall
Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening
Nothing Gold Can Stay
Tree At My Window
After Apple Picking
Fire And Ice
Desert Places

Frost’s poems are full of home-spun logic and memorable phrases. It might be said that Robert Frost is America’s Shakespeare – most of the poems listed above have lines in them that are known to many, if not most, Americans:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less travelled by

Good fences make good neighbors

Nature’s first green is gold

And miles to go before I sleep

If you read these (and other Frost) poems, you and your students will be rewarded.

I think it’s best to avoid any suggestion that pupils should “appreciate poetry”, since their natural and immediate reaction will be to un-appreciate it.

There is also sometimes a tendency to present “poetry” as some kind of amorphous entity that is in itself worthy of appreciation; whereas most poems are not very good, some poems have one or two interesting lines, and a very few are not too bad at all.

I’m reminded of Marianne Moore’s Poetry:

Best wishes,


Hi Lilibeth,

Why do they have to appreciate it? It’s rather like the sort of comment made by an adult to a child who’s told to appreciate what its mum and do for it. All very good, no doubt. Buy don’t you want to help your students understand written language whether it’s prose or poetry or whatever?


One thing I noticed while reading through some poetry anthologies: The very worst poems are often the ones that try to take on monumental themes. The same poet can be incredibly good when writing about a glass of milk on the table, or a worm in the garden, but incredibly bad when writing on the subject of world peace.

I agree with Alan, that you should teach them to understand it. The appreciation has to come from them, if it ever comes.

I agree with Alan and Jamie. You could also ask the question “How does this poem achieve its effects?” – once you’ve agreed what those effects might be.

It may be useful to deconstruct and compare other kinds of poetic text as well, e.g.

  1. The verses in birthday cards (e.g. what makes them “bad”?).

  2. Advertising jingles and slogans, which often make use of poetic techniques (e.g. “And all because the lady loves Milk Tray” – a perfect Tennysonian pentameter).

  3. Lyrics (e.g. Why do ordinary people tolerate the obscurity of the average lyric, when they would probably object to similar qualities in Eliot, Empson, or Pound?).


Thanks to all who cared to reply my query. I am overwhelmed with your suggestion. Nevertheless for those who think that poetry need not be appreciated because of its language.I think you are wrong. I believe that for students to appreciate poetry they must understand it first.Shakespeare’s sonnets are very good examples of poems that have to be understood first before they can be appreciated. Who can forget Desiderata? Though quite long for a grade school pupil to appreciate ,once the message of the poem is explained to them. I am sure they will be able to appreciate it. What I am trying to ask is if there are other motivations that some of our English teachers are using in their classroom which they could share to me, it would be a great help. And I would truly appreciate it.
Thanks anyway.

Nobody in this thread suggested that poetry need not be appreciated because of its language. I think that came from your head, or from someone else you’ve been talking to.

Far from forgetting Desiderata, I don’t even know about it. My Shakespeare teacher made his works so repugnant to me that I never went further into them.

Part of what makes something difficult to understand repugnant to students is to have a teacher press them to study it. However, if no one presses them to study it, they will never know about it. So the best you can do with a lot of kids is to force them to study something they don’t appreciate and then hope that in adulthood they’ll go back to it and begin to see its profound value.

The only poetry I actually remember from school are the works by e.e. cummings, because I was so impressed by the vivid images he painted with superficially nonsensical language. One line that has returned to my head weekly or monthly for decades later is one from a poem of his about a city park spring: “And the goat-footed balloon man whistles far and wee.” As a kid, I could immediately see and hear that fat Italian balloon man perfectly, along with the other things cummings described.

Again, the value of poetry is not just in the language and momentous thoughts it can convey, but in the sound, rhythm and visual images it creates. English teachers are largely so oriented toward the printed page that they miss the point of the poetry they are teaching, leave out the most exciting poets, and have no feel for the sensual aspects of the works. Being taught poetry by most English teachers is like being forced to eat paper.

I’m not a teacher; but if I were, I wouldn’t teach my students to look for messages in poems. For instance, it would be easy for an expositor to extract a very simple message from the earliest of Shakespeare’s sonnets: “Go forth and multiply”. But Shakespeare didn’t go to all the trouble of putting those particular words in that particular order simply to say “Reproduce!”. Rather, he constructed a mechanism for taking the reader through a series of thoughts and sensations and images; and the point of the poem is that little expedition itself, not a brief summary of what you saw there.

To extend the analogy: looking for messages in poems is a little like going on holiday merely for the sake of sending a postcard home.


This is quite true. It was also mentioned in this thread that poetry should not be taught in an obtrusive or didactic way. There is nothing worse than Please analyse the symbolism in connection with the author’s intention in combination with rhyme and rhythm in contrast to something else tasks.

I think the most important aspect of poetry still lies in its potential to convey ‘powerful feelings’. And if you want to make your students interested in those powerful feelings disguised in words, you need to present them with poetry they can relate to. I use song lyrics in my vocational school classes whenever I do extra curricular exercises. After asking them to bring their mp3 files of their favourite songs along with a printed version of the lyrics, we then simply talk about the songs. That’s a good exercise for an ESL class, and it may be used as an introduction to ‘real poetry’ in (first language) English classes.

I was never really interested in poetry before our secondary school teacher introduced this famous Ezra Pound poem to us. He told us to close our eyes before he read the poem to us and then asked us what we thought of it. Everyone liked the little poem, so his dialectic endeavours were fruitful.

A better analogy: Looking for messages in poems is like going on holiday for the purpose of talking about it.

Same thing, I guess.

That approach is only good if you finally do get to the real poetry. I went to high school in an era when they were throwing the baby out with the bath water, and we had to spend class periods analyzing the “deep, hidden meaning” in various pop songs that didn’t have any. Then they never gave us the real stuff.