8 Video Poems to Watch in Class: Performance and Poetry Film
Most students treat poetry like a highly academic art form meant for scholars. Most people feel the same way about visual art; they look at a painting in a museum, but are not always sure what to say about it. Art can sometimes feel deliberately confusing.
But poetry started as storytelling performance, and poetic language appears in songs, speeches, sports broadcasts, television shows, even social media. Poetry, packed with figurative language, playful syntax, and sounds pleasing to the ear, is the communication of intense emotion, a memorable moment frozen in time for close inspection. To make poetry easily accessible for all students, I like to play videos of poems read out loud on a stage or accompanied by creative visuals and moving images in short films.
It may be easier for students to comprehend a poem by ear rather than by eye. Poets read the poem with the emotion behind the words, so there’s no mystery around what they’re feeling. They pause after a powerful image or maybe because of shock or disbelief, to let the moment settle in. Or they slow down because the poem expresses confusion or doubt. When we tell a story in real life, we unconsciously allow the memory to take over the details and feelings of the experience. Poetry should work on the same level.
There are many places online to find great recitations of poems, and I will include a list of video poems I show in my classroom (watch for grade level appropriateness and language before showing):
Aja Monet “Birthmark” (5:00-7:45)
Denise Duhamel “Ego”, recited by Kavita Oza, Poetry Out Loud
Thomas Sayers Ellis “All Their Stanzas Look Alike” (1:42-4:33)
Walt Whitman “Song of Myself”, read by John Doherty (2:55-5:03)
English language arts teacher
Teacher's Workshop, professional development for secondary ELA teachers