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Narrative poetry for 14yo (or other poetry that'll engage him)


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I'm looking for poetry I could hand off to my older child, a STEM-oriented 14yo boy who reads perfectly well but tends to skim Most Things Literary.  He does poetry memorization and (good Lord willing & the creek don't rise) we'll be reading poetry out loud over the next term, but what I'd like to accomplish is building his ability to enjoy reading poems on his own.   And I'd like for him to be willing & able to actually read & find delight in some of the more demanding poems he'll hit in future years (rhetoric level).

Some sort of story-poem might be a good fit here.  I myself got a kick out of Poe &c. at his age but he is sensitive and really doesn't click with dark or dystopian right now.  For his memory work he's liked humorous poems most. 

Thanks in advance for ideas!

Edited by serendipitous journey
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Oh, man. Narrative poems for a 14yo boy immediately calls to mind Brave Horatius, from "Narrative Poems: II. Rome" "Horatius at the Bridge" by Thomas Babbington Macauley

"Then outspake brave Horatius,The Captain of the Gate:

To every man upon this earth
Death cometh soon or late.
And how can man die better
Than facing fearful odds,
For the ashes of his fathers,
And the temples of his gods"

The poem is long, this is the famous stanza. My dc all memorized this stanza when we studied that period in Roman history in their Latin lessons, although we read the whole thing. Horatius is holding off an entire army (with two buddies) at the entrance to the bridge. Meanwhile his fellow Romans are hacking down the bridge at their end. Right before the bridge collapses, Horatius seems good bodies back to safety. The bridge falls (Gap! Horatius!) Horatius  dives in and swims back across the river, repeatedly being pulled down by his armor. but he makes it! Yay!

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I mean, the obvious starting point to me would be something by Kwame Alexander, especially if the goal is to get a 14 yo poetry resistant boy to enjoy a long set of poems. If the goal is... something else, like exposing him to classical narrative poetry, then obviously something so modern won't fulfill that goal.

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Robert Service was my son's favorite poet at that age, and I remember he was especially enthusiastic about some of the ballads (The Shooting of Dan McGrew, The Cremation of Sam McGee, The Ballad of One-Eyed Mike), The Men That Don't Fit In, and a humorous little poem called Duello. We never did get around to formally studying much poetry in high school, but he's read quite a bit on his own so I'll ask if he has any other suggestions. 

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3 hours ago, Farrar said:

I mean, the obvious starting point to me would be something by Kwame Alexander, especially if the goal is to get a 14 yo poetry resistant boy to enjoy a long set of poems. If the goal is... something else, like exposing him to classical narrative poetry, then obviously something so modern won't fulfill that goal.

🙂  thank you!  That is I'm aiming for, having him enjoy a long set of poems.  Suggestions for hitting Alexander's corpus with a non-sporting type?  as in, he's never even watched a full game of ANYTHING.  It is on the list for cultural knowledge, but it hasn't been a priority for us...

My thinking is that if he can enjoy a long set of poems, and we've been through our WTM logic-level lists, then when he hits classical/great books poetry he's more likely to 1. read it and 2. get something positive out of the experience. 

But more important than the classical stuff is to build a love of -- or at least joy in -- poetry at all.  It'd be glorious if when he was grown he sometimes just read poetry for the heck of it. 

Edited by serendipitous journey
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The child is a bit tricky: he's memorized Horatius (but didn't esp. like it) and didn't cotton to The Cremation of Sam McGee.  They are great suggestions, though -- almost certainly my younger one would benefit from them when he's older. 

He has liked Ogden Nash poems in his memory work, and Oliver Herford so I can also look for more by them ... y'all have me thinking. 

 

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For a non-sports kid, Alexander’s Swing and Solo are two that aren’t sports themed.

There are other possibilities though. David Levithan’s The Realm of Possibility is good. The Poet X is wonderful. There’s lots out there.

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I did Kwame Alexander's The Crossover with a middle grade group last year. Only a couple were particularly familiar with the game, but that was ok. The poetry tells you when to be excited 😉 I explained any basketball terms that we're useful to know. There are quite a few different types of poems in the book which was interesting to look at. It is totally fine as a stand-alone book, although one student read the other books after.

The are a number of books written in poems now that you all mention it. Brown Girl Dreaming? May B.

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13 hours ago, Farrar said:

For a non-sports kid, Alexander’s Swing and Solo are two that aren’t sports themed.

There are other possibilities though. David Levithan’s The Realm of Possibility is good. The Poet X is wonderful. There’s lots out there.

Thanks for the specific titles!  I will look them up. 

Any general hints for finding more?  Is there a resource you like for this?  Maybe just hunt through Kirkus reviews/ALA? 

 

3 hours ago, SusanC said:

I did Kwame Alexander's The Crossover with a middle grade group last year. Only a couple were particularly familiar with the game, but that was ok. The poetry tells you when to be excited 😉 I explained any basketball terms that we're useful to know. There are quite a few different types of poems in the book which was interesting to look at. It is totally fine as a stand-alone book, although one student read the other books after.

The are a number of books written in poems now that you all mention it. Brown Girl Dreaming? May B.

 

Thank you!  I'll look at those. 

I think he could read, understand, and somewhat relate to Kwame Alexander's more sports-focused books, but I think that there is so much there that he doesn't relate to personally (formal school setting, importance of sports both culturally and as a mode for personal challenge/medium for developing important and challenging social ties) that it wouldn't help build a real fondness for the genre.  

It is not just that he isn't sporty.  It is that he won't see the mapping from the things he really values onto the things the characters in the books value.   I mean, obviously the basic values are similar, but he would not relate to why somebody cares much about, say, basketball.  It would be an intellectual exercise and not an emotional one.   I'm hoping that eventually that will be different b/c ideally he'd have the background to relate to that stuff, but he doesn't at the moment.   We're beginning to tackle that end of it with movies that make it easy to connect (dramatized sports bios, for example). 

ETA: I just want to thank y'all so much.  I had no idea how to tackle this, the only poetry narrative he related to at all recently was the one about the Tuskegee airmen ( Carole Boston Weatherford's You Can Fly). but that one I read aloud over lunches & he wouldn't have read it carefully on its own.  Now I have so many leads.  🙂 

Edited by serendipitous journey
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I don't want to sound like I think you must do The Crossover, but basketball is really just the vehicle for the growth and change in his relationships with his brother and his father. Spoiler: his dad dies toward the end of the book. 

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So, I know this book is really short and maybe a little too easy to read but Love.That.Dog really appealed to my jaded, almost nihilistic child. It was a good entry point before digging into some of the other books recommended already. DS isn’t sporty either.

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58 minutes ago, SusanC said:

I don't want to sound like I think you must do The Crossover, but basketball is really just the vehicle for the growth and change in his relationships with his brother and his father. Spoiler: his dad dies toward the end of the book. 

Argh!  You had me convinced until the spoiler.  For which I thank you!  this child is esp. sensitive and I want him to think that poetry is enjoyable.  I'd have loved a book like that when I was younger, and my littler boy may too, but this fellow would be left with an aversion.  Sigh. 

 

13 minutes ago, Sneezyone said:

So, I know this book is really short and maybe a little too easy to read but Love.That.Dog really appealed to my jaded, almost nihilistic child. It was a good entry point before digging into some of the other books recommended already. DS isn’t sporty either.

Will look at this!  DS loves dogs as a theme, now that we have one ... and I see I could follow it up with Hate That Cat if it works out for us.  🙂  This book as entry point seems like a good plan, thanks for that idea. 

Edited by serendipitous journey
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Our DSs were never poetry fans -- some people just aren't. But they did like some that were more narrative, atmospheric, clever, or humorous.

more vivid/dark poems
- "The Raven" (Poe) -- atmospheric
- "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" (Coleridge) -- undead sailor-zombies! 😉
- "Ozymandias" (Shelley) -- very short and clear message about the brevity of fame/power
- "Darkness" (Byron) -- apocalyptic end of the world

riddle or humorous poems
- "The Walrus and the Carpenter"; "Father Williams"; "The Crocodile" (Carroll) -- parodies of other poems
- poems by Ogden Nash  -- humorous
- The Disappearing Alphabet; Opposites; The Pig in Spigot (Wilbur) -- clever/humorous riddle poems
Mirror, Mirror (Singer) -- and others by her; very cleverly, the poem in one direction is in the voice of one character from a fairy tale, and read word-for-word backwards, becomes a new poem in the voice of a different character from the same fairy tale

narrative poems
-
 "The Jabberwocky" (Carroll) -- a huge favorite
- "The Ride of Paul Revere" (Longfellow)
- The Charge of the Light Brigade (Tennyson)
- Love That Dog (Creech) -- NOTE: the boy's dog has died before the start of the book, and he is writing about his dog
- a narrative poem-book by Marilyn Nelson: Fortune's Bones, or, Carver (the life of George Washington Carver in poems)


I also worked to keep interest by coupling a few classic poems with parodies or modern allusions, which actually works to provoke some fun discussion into the poem:
"Village Blacksmith" (Longfellow) -- coupled with the Bullwinkle parody
"I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud" (Wordsworth) -- coupled with the Bullwinkle parody
"Tyger" (Blake) -- coupled with this Calvin & Hobbes cartoon (attached below)

A few poems that DSs didn't seem to mind too much:
- "Because I Could Not Stop for Death" (Dickinson)
- "The Convergence of the Twain" (Hardy) -- you could couple this with underwater footage of the Titanic
 

On 12/28/2019 at 3:17 PM, serendipitous journey said:

I'm looking for poetry I could hand off to my older child, a STEM-oriented 14yo boy who reads perfectly well but tends to skim Most Things Literary...


Well,  I have to say that handing off poems and expecting our DSs to spend ANY time on them if doing it solo would NOT have "flown" with either of our DSs. They were not fond of poetry, and both were rather "direct" and "black & white" thinkers -- and poetry is just about the opposite of that.  😉

We really had to do poetry together, AND, we needed to use a program to help equip DSs with the tools to be begin to understand -- and from there, to be able to *appreciate* -- poetry. Some resources (esp. the first 2) that might be a good fit, and could probably be done "solo" by your DS, although even better/richer if you did it together:

- How to Read a Poem (Runyan)
- Art of Poetry -- Classical Academic Press
- Introduction to Poetry: Forms and Elements -- Progeny Press
 

Calvin & Hobbes.gif

Edited by Lori D.
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