Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Mild Diatribe Number Three

Relating to my previous post, I’ve just found one task which is linked to the contextualised approach to teaching grammar, in this case writing Poetry:

Context: Writing poetry.
Learning Focus: How varying sentence structure and sentence length can create different
emphases in poetry.
Using an exploded version of Sylvia Plath’s ‘Mirror’ presented alphabetically as a word grid, students are asked to generate pairs of sentences, experimenting with the possibilities outlined below:
·             Beginning with a non-finite verb, adverb or prepositional phrase.
·             Using a short verbless sentence.
·             Using a one-word sentence.
·             Using repetition of a single word or short phrase.

Well, I’m not happy with this! Am I being too precious about Poetry? I don’t believe that writing poetry is about thinking, for example, whether to begin a sentence with a prepositional phrase. I can see this being useful when deploying rhetorical features in an argument, and of course in providing variety within a narrative, but it seems alien to the creative impulse when writing poetry.

I don’t know. When I write poetry I prefer the spontaneity of the initial words on the page, writing them as I hear them in my head, listening for sound and rhythm – maybe even echo/rhyme – as I’m getting the meaning/subject down. But I do know that the editing/crafting stage is crucial. If you’re lucky, there’s much that doesn’t have to be changed, but editing/crafting can be intense and dramatic in terms of alterations. Perhaps it’s just that I don’t think in grammatical terms when I do in fact make grammatical decisions. Yet I do know those decisions are informed by other factors like positioning on the page [I generally write and edit on screen, so word processing] as well as the sounds and pacing. Looking at repetition – whether to exploit or alter – is crucial, but I don’t ever recall thinking I need an ‘adverb’ here or a ‘prepositional phrase’ there. Vocabulary is very important, and editing is often looking for synonyms.

Not sure about this.

1 comment:

  1. Weird coincidence-have just been reading a teachit e-mail about the Deborah Myhill writing pilot!
    I totally agree with what you say here-I recoiled in horror when I saw the terms" starting with a non-finite verb" etc etc. Of course crafting is important but I usually find the kids at school can do this best by feeling, listening and experimenting. Such grammatical "precision" would terrify many into abandoning the whole process.
    I like your diatribes-keep 'em coming!