Epic poetry: Be taught to learn and luxuriate in in 5 steps

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Epic poetry at school

Do you remember reading or doing any of the following at school?

  • The Iliad
  • The Odyssey
  • The Aeneid
  • Beowulf

Your teacher may even have assigned Longfellow & # 39; s The Song of Hiawatha or Evangeline. Maybe you've read Whittiers Snowbound.

Are you shivering already

Unfortunately, these beautiful epic poems are often presented at school as follows: a fair introduction to the meaning of the poem, a schedule for reading assignments, frequent quizzes and analysis of the poem "for pain" allusions, literary style, poetic techniques and subjects .

You, like me, may have assumed that epic poetry was simply not your thing, even if you enjoy reading. After all, it was one of the more boring segments of the high school English class. Right up there for me with the audio recording by Julius Caesar, which was booming in my ninth grade English class.

Epic poetry for fun: a 5-step training program

What if I told you there was a better way?

What if I told you there was a way that might even tempt your kids to read a long epic poem?

What if I told you that YOU might even want to pick up an epic poem and read it yourself?

My approach is not based on years of study, large samples from students, or research by a scholar. This is simply based on the experiences of my own family in the past 5 years – and on the fact that all my children, who differ greatly in personality and interest, have succumbed to the joys of poetry. Admittedly, their enthusiasm is different. But nobody is afraid of poetry. Nobody groans at the mention of poetry. And everyone wants to read Beowulf this autumn.

Step 1: read poems

Sounds too obvious, doesn't it? But it is true. The more you integrate poetry into your natural reading life, the more natural poetry appears to you and your children. Read a poem every morning at breakfast. Have a weekly tea time reading poems. Just work it in. Try it Megan's guaranteed, irresistible, effortless introduction to poetry.

See also ours Poetry anthologies list for some favorite starting points.

Step 2: enjoy poetry

If you regularly read poems with your children (step 1), do not try to explain or analyze them (the technical term is “explicate”). Just enjoy it. Did a certain line hit you? Mention that to your children. Do you think you like the style of a particular book or author? Read more in the same direction. Ask your kids what they like. (Note: Most kids love funny poems)

Step 3: improve your poetry

Once you've gotten into the habit of reading poetry regularly, it's time to improve your poetry. Try reading a poet that is a little more difficult to understand or higher, like Gerard Manly Hopkins or John Donne. If you've only read silly poems, try a more thoughtful child poet like A. A. Milne or Robert Louis Stevenson. Try a longer poem or ballad that has been spread out over several days. There are some great Robin Hood ballads. "The Highwayman" is another longer favorite.

The Poetry for Young People series is a good resource if you ascend through reading the more established poets (as opposed to contemporary children's poetry).

Step 4: read verse novels

Verse novels or verse novels are very popular these days, but they are relatively new to the field. We have checked a lot at Redeemed Reader over the years. The poetry in these novels is not exaggerated or difficult to understand. However, reading verse novels can behave like a mental retraining: you will not see an epic poem in the length of a novel later and will automatically write it down as "too difficult". After all, you have already read and enjoyed poems of the same length! In fact, some children really love this format because of all the white space. Shortness is welcome in a sea of ​​bloated children's novels. Some good starting points:

Step 5a: Epic Poetry training bikes

You (and your children) are no longer afraid of poetry. It may not be your favorite literary approach, but it shouldn't sound as far away and mysterious as it used to be. Maybe you and your children now have a favorite poem or poet, or you have read several verse novels and discovered a new favorite genre.

Before you dive into a famous epic poem, read a really good summary of it. Keeping an eye on the whole story is extremely helpful when poets are eloquent; Also, knowing that there is a monster or an epic naval battle or some other exciting moment awakens interest in the real business. Some options:

  • The Iliad by Gareth Hinds (Retelling of graphic novels)
  • Beowulf by Michael Morpurgo (illustrated retelling)
  • Beowulf by Gareth Hinds (Retelling of graphic novels)
  • Black ships off Troy and the walks of Odysseus by Rosemary Sutfcliff (retelling of the Iliad and the Odyssey)

Step 5b: Read Epic Poetry

Time to go out and read! There is no "best" starting point here. Pick something that interests you and dive in. So many epic poems have been translated from other languages ​​or are available with helpful annotations. If you start something that doesn't work, try another translation or look for an illustrated edition. What are your children studying in history right now? Is there an epic poem related to this? Where do you live? Where do you want to travel? Perhaps this can be a guide to which poem to choose. What is available in your local library or in digital format for free?

A few pointers to keep in mind:

  • Pace yourself: How is the poem divided? Books? Cantos? Read a section or a certain number of pages or stanzas at a time. Slow down.
  • Read out: Epic poems should be heard, much like Shakespeare should be seen on stage. Reading poems will help you hear the cadence of the language and highlight the quality of the story.
  • Create a stick comic strip: Divide a piece of printer paper into 8 or 12 squares by folding it in half again, etc. Let your kids create a simple cartoon illustration for each day. In the end you will be able to retell a long poem with ease!
  • Tell: Ask your children (or yourself) what happened at the end of each reading. What did you notice? What is the main character doing? Retelling in your own words is a miracle when it comes to maintaining and internalizing the action.
  • Don't worry about the analysis: Just read for the power of history. The original audience did not try to find caesuras in Beowulf or study homonymous epithets in The Odyssey.
  • Stay on course: Do not give up. Hold on even if you want. You will feel like you have achieved an important goal in the end, and you will be glad that you have finished the story.

My favorite epic poetry

They are all my favorites! Indeed, One of my New Year's resolutions this year was to read 5 epic poems. So far I've finished three. One with my kids: The White Horse Ballad by G. K. Chesterton. It's about King Alfred and the words are just beautiful. We read it slowly and loudly.

I read Emily Wilson's new translation of The Odyssey in about 6 weeks. I thought I would need 22 (there are 22 "books"), but it was so captivating and easy to read that I roamed the area. I already knew the plot, which helped. In the meantime I have also read a lot of verse novels and a lot of poems, so that the line breaks don't get me in the slightest phase.

A friend loaned me Longfellow Evangeline. It's beautifully written and I enjoyed it a lot more than the Hiawatha song I read a few years ago. In fact, I liked it so much that I am looking for my own copy.

As I said, I'll read Beowulf (Seamus Heaney translation) with my kids this fall. I've taught Beowulf before and am quite familiar with it, but I haven't read Heaney's translation before. I look forward to it!

I've read – and enjoyed – more epic poems in the past year than ever. My kids are happy for the ride.

What are YOUR favorite epos? Have you ever read one just because?

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

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