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Agents of Imagination

Updated: Feb 1, 2019

by Carol Jago on Poetry Foundation


Poetry lessons too often progress something like this: a teacher reads aloud with feeling a poem she loves. Because she is a good teacher, she doesn’t immediately start peppering students with questions about imagery and diction but instead gently queries, “So what do you think?” Silence. Not a raised hand in sight. But English teachers hate silence, so she starts talking, telling students about the poet’s life and influences, pointing out where the poem turns, explaining every allusion. In no time, the bell rings. Students shake themselves out of their stupor and whisper, “Phew! For a minute there I thought we were going to have to do something.”


Illustration by James Heimer
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