Why do people write poetry?

aus ZUM-Wiki, dem Wiki für Lehr- und Lerninhalte auf ZUM.de
Wechseln zu: Navigation, Suche

Aspects of society reflected in poems


Basic information

This page is a collection of material suitable for a series of lessons (planned for 8-10 sessions of 90 minutes). Each lesson will shift the focus to poetry from a different period, author and topic. Each poem introduced offers suitable examples for formal and figurative analysis while simultaenously providing a basis for the discussion of the series' leading question. The material can be analysed and evaluated in classroom discussions and written production. The sequence in which it is presented here may need adaption to other teaching contexts. (Original context: Klassenstufe 11, Englisch E-Kurs/Leistungskurs)


No. Topic Title Description Comment
#1 Poetry warm-up! 6 poems from different authors and periods An informal introduction to the topic, with a focus on content and context of the works. (originally designed to overcome students' widespread prejudices against poetry)
#2 Love poetry? The Shakespearean sonnets 56, 130 and 60(excerpt) in contrast. Accessing content despite dated language; basic formal analysis (meter, rhyme scheme); comparative tropes (simile, metaphor, symbol) With a focus on the figurative stylistic devices as they are of equal importance for other text types.
#3 Fantastic poetry? Rossetti's Goblin Market as instance of Romantic fantasy with strong historical and cultural implications. Accessing a large poetic work through distributed content summaries; comparative tropes (simile, metaphor, symbol) and their potential for interpretation. Focus on historical context, poverty, women's oppression, feminist preliminaries etc..
#4 How to become a poet? Writing poetry on current events Introduction/revision of some phonological and structural stylistic devices in preparation for writing a poem in a group. Stress on avoiding a too direct approach to or mentioning of the topic (e.g. because of censorship).
#5 Semiotic overdose Aspects of symbolism in Baz Luhrmann's "Romeo + Juliet" Revision of the sonnet (prologue) and the principle of the symbol. Close watching of various movie scenes in order to collect and interpret symbolic instances. Focus on duality of presented symbols: Fire & Water, The Fake & The Real (religion, costume vs. tattoo), friend & foe
#6 (a/b) More Troubles? Northern Ireland and the Brexit problem Discussing the impact of past political conflicts in the current event revolving around the Brexit and the possible "hard" border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Judging current events in their historical context
#7 A hip hop interlude Changing roles in the classroom to learn about rap and hip hop Students give presentations on rap and hip hop stars and their work Perspective change, role reversal (Particularly helpful if the teacher doesn't know much about that topic ;-), preparing part 9 of the series with some head start)
#8 Generation conflicts ' Expressing personal stance, relating it to poetry and prose
#9 Drive-by shooting Violence and racism in rap lyrics Discussion, perspective change

Content collection


Title Type Link Didactical opportunities
"Sonnet 56", William Shakespeare Poem / Sonnet [1] Traditional, classic love poetry, early 17th century
"The Raven", Edgar Allan Poe Poem [2] Traditional, American Gothic / Dark Romantics, 1840s
"Goblin Market", Christina Rosetti Poem [3] Traditional, British Gothic / Dark Romantics, 1860s
"These Grasses of Light", Ted Hughes Poem [4] Personal, densely figurative/abstract, post-modern: 1970s
"Digging", Seamus Heaney Poem [5] (memento) Political, personal, post-modern: 1980s
"California Love", Tupac Shakur Rap lyrics [6] (memento) Example of post modern poetry contrasting the "high brow" example above; 1990s


Title Type Link Didactical opportunities
"Sonnet 56", William Shakespeare Poem / Sonnet [7] Sonnet formal aspects: structure, meter, rhyme scheme; similes and metaphors
"Sonnet 130", William Shakespeare Poem / Sonnet [8] Striking contrast to conventional "love poetry"; entertaining examples of figurative language; discussing the value of and reasons behind writing poetry (1)
"Sonnet 60", William Shakespeare Poem / Sonnet [9] 3rd quatrain: the scythe as a symbol of death to complete the three types of comparative figurative devices.


Title Type Link Didactical opportunities
"Goblin Market", Christina Rosetti Poem [10] Cooperative learning on singled out stanzas for different groups; looking step by step at 1) formal analysis, 2) factual content (no interpretation!), 3) comparative tropes, 4) interpretation of content in its historic context.


  • Stylistic devices: parallelism, chiasmus, alliteration, rhyme, hyperbole, climax (tricolon)
  • Topics ("Taboo" words by topic for the censorship game):
    • parents (mother, father, family, parents)
    • relaxation (sleep, movies, music, games)
    • Brexit (Britain, Europe, union)
    • plastic pollution (ocean, plastic, wrap/foil, bag)
    • "Dieselgate" (Diesel, motor, car brand names, air)
    • nationalism (people, foreigner, refugee, home)



Title Type Link Didactical opportunities
"Zombie", The Cranberries Music video / lyrics [11] Identifying the historic scenes cut into the movie as originating in Northern Ireland, illustrating the civil war qualities of the Troubles
Hillary Clinton: "Don’t let Brexit undermine Ireland’s peace " Text / comment [12] (memento) Identifying argumentative structure, taking stance, discussion
"Digging", Seamus Heaney Poem [13] (memento)


Title Type Link Didactical opportunities


Title Type Link Didactical opportunities
Helicopter parents? Stalker children – they are the truly scary ones Text / comment [14] (memento) discussion, perspective change
'I never want to see my mother again' Text / comment [15] (memento) discussion, perspective change
"This be the verse", P. Larkin Poem [16] (memento) comparing different models and understandings of families
"Family Reunion", C. Barnett Poem [17] (memento) comparison
"Family Stories", D. Laux Poem [18] (memento) comparison
"Family Dinner", P. Lee Poem [19] (memento) comparison


Title Type Link Didactical opportunities
Is UK drill music really behind London's wave of violent crime? Text / comment [20] (memento] analysis, discussion
Is Hate Speech by Rappers a Protected Right? Text / comment [21] (memento) Analysis, discussion, perspective change
Wireless festival to return to Finsbury Park – if it bans swearing Text / news report [22] (memento) discussion, perspective change, censorship vs. freedom of thought
Does freedom of speech offend you? Video comment [23] Discussion, perspective change
Eminem attacks Donald Trump: 'He's got people brainwashed' Text / News report [24] (memento)
Eminem lambasts Donald Trump in freestyle rap Freestyle rap / video [25] discussion / reflection / relating prose and poetry
Hip-hop: it's a woman's world too Text / report [26] [ (memento)] discussion: misogyny in hip hop?
Research demonstrates how the use of bad language can alter our behaviour Text [27] (memento) discussion
Jay-Z – dropping the word 'bitch' doesn't begin to cover it Text / comment [28] (memento) discussion, perspective change
Minister labelled racist after attack on rap 'idiots' Text / comment [29] (memento) discussion, perspective change
Why do we tolerate misogyny in music? Text / comment [30] (memento) discussion, perspective change
Rappers and rape: the incredible sound and hateful lyrics of Odd Future Text / comment [31] (memento) discussion, perspective change
Is there too much swearing in the Guardian? Comment [32] (memento) quote: "Lenny Bruce (...) 'take away the right to say fuck and you take away the right to say fuck the government'"
Trigger Warning: Is the Fear of Being Offensive Killing Free Speech? Text / comment [33] (memento)
What is the most offensive album of all time? Text / comment [34] (memento) proposing media to complement text work with