National Poetry Month (6) – Encouraging Poetry Reading

What is YA book cover image doing at the top of a post about National Poetry Month?

When I began reading Matched, by Ally Condie (my review here), I didn’t really know what the storyline was or where the story was going to end up. As I read it and read about the Committees of 100, an idea sparked. In Cassia’s Society, it was deemed necessary to limit exposure to the arts in order to allow the experience associated with the arts, but also to curtail a greater sense of freedom and desire. The songs, poems, and works of art were all carefully selected to portray the beauty of such works, but also to limit exposure to art that might encourage dissension in or distrust of the Society.

Cassia, because of her foreseeing grandfather, is exposed to words beyond those allowed by the Society. One of the poems she is exposed to (found below) is Dylan Thomas’ Do Not Go Gentle.” Cassia’s grandfather knows of the limiting nature of the Committees of 100 and was sending Cassia a message, one she would find and use when she was ready. As you read the poem below, ask yourself what message you get from this poem and why a society might deem it as a dangerous form of self expression.

I love to read. I love poetry. I love old and new poetry. I love new and old books. I teach high school and I have students who do not love these things as much as I do. 😦 But, when I find a book like Matched, that uses poetry (and/or classic literature, as in The Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare) within its story, I know it will encourage readers to seek out more poetry or classic lit. Alluding to poetry and classical literature in modern writings gives students a reason to want to know more about it.

I have seen so many students want to read more Dylan Thomas poetry or find more works similar to his. They set off with a purpose and this is what so many students are lacking–a purpose for reading something. Of course, as an effective reader, I know what my purpose is before I read almost anything. But, many students have not learned how to set their own purpose for reading. When they stumble upon something they want to learn more about, they discover a purpose and it’s personally relevant to them. This is one of the best lessons an emerging reader can learn and it will serve them well.

Do not go gentle into that good night

Dylan Thomas

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.


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