cover image Open the Door: How to Excite Young People About Poetry

Open the Door: How to Excite Young People About Poetry

Edited by Dorothea Lasky, Dominic Luxford, and Jesse Nathan. McSweeney's/The Poetry Foundation, $28 (404p) ISBN 978-1-938073-28-1

Editors Lasky, Luxford, and Nathan, in collecting essays, roundtable discussions with practitioners, and sample lesson plans, have assembled an invaluable resource not only for teaching poetry to young people, but for exciting them about the art form and language in general. As many of the contributors are quick to point out, traditional approaches, in which canonical poems are to be decoded and interpreted in certain, specific ways, tend to disenfranchise younger students and, as educator and author Jim Trelease puts it, "poetry dies for most people on graduation day." In the face of such tendencies, organizations such as Teachers & Writers Collaborative and Youth Speaks focus on engaging students by bringing active poets and writers into schools, and organizing opportunities for children to perform and publish their own work. In so doing, poetry becomes a living, vital form of expression, and, according to Jeff Kass (literary arts director at the Ann Arbor Teen Center), it becomes "one of the few places that people, especially young people, tell the truth about their lives." The benefits of such efforts go far beyond arts education; when children "understand that their voices matter, they understand that they matter." (May)