Contemporary Concerns: Critical essay

Claudia Piccinno

The pedagogical value of poetry 

Claudia Piccinno
Italian poet and teacher

As a teacher of  inclusion (so some colleagues call me), I have  always encouraged every expressive medium, allowing my students to use any language: iconic, mimic, gestural, putting them on a same level with the verbal one.

This is because I firmly believe in the pedagogical, relational and cathartic value  of each art form.

Poetry in particular intervenes where faith and reason do not find a way out, and it becomes like Ariadne’s thread in the labyrinth. She saves us from the homologation to which the global society of our times forces us, so  it gives us the limits and the potential resources of each of us, it  is a necessary  mean to rediscover our uniqueness.

Art and poetry help us in the inner search, reconcile us with our instincts and intuitions, they purify us from the conditioning and while they bare us, they show our human finitude and our infinite desire to improve ourselves.

Poetry helps us to reconcile ourselves with slow pace of introspection and it makes itself Maieutica.

Poetry feeds introspection, but even more she spreads questions and promotes critical thinking, she teaches us how to enjoy the beauty and the joy of little things, as well as to reach out to those who suffer, developing empathy and sharing.

So Poetry becomes a bridge between peoples, it weaves relationships and brings us closer to our “sacred little” (to allude with Pasolini,to  the inner wealth of every individual), without dwelling on the mask, on the stereotypes that make the person and imprison him in social categories.

Oratio, a great latin poet, said “Aut insanity homo, aut versus facit”..the man becomes crazy if he doesn’t write poetry……even a single verse…”

Otherwise poetry is a useful device to teach a foreign language, indeed it provides mnemonic aids because pupils have to memorise rhythm and rhyme: rhythm is a pleasant singsong ease, it is an hypnotic repetition, rhyme when used as a ritual is an expression of the classroom community.

Furthermore some lines of poetry, especially poetry for kids, provide linguistic patterns in a contest , so that grammar is not isolated.

Harley in 1998 wrote “ Young children acquire second language through a memorizing lexical approach, in contrast to a more analytic approach”.

Poetry is a multi-function and a multi-sensorial approach, it can help learners to use their imagination, it can open a window on a new landscape.

Poetry can appeal to learners with different learning styles.

It can help children to practise the four skills: listening, reading, a bit of speaking, writing. It can help learners to use their imagination and to develop their awareness of other culture. Rodari said that imagination serves to make the full man.

If a society founded on the myth of productivity (and profitability) needs mid-executives men, playful diligent, docile tools without will -it means it's bad and you have to change it.
To change it requires creative men, who can use their imagination.

There is always a form of subjection of the imagination towards logic and nationalism in occidental school, but already the English poet and philosopher Herbert Read in "Educating with art" insisted on developing an integral and organic way of thinking in children where perceptions have equal dignity of logic.

Indeed, he argued that in order to develop logical thinking, it is not necessary to sacrifice the imagination.

Schiller also stated that man is fully man only when he plays, thus recognizing an important role for the creative gesture.

The poet performs a creative act, takes insights and brings us back to the archetypes of the language.
Poetry, according to my humble warning, is rooted in the universe's perception of the universe, but it provides the lenses to look at the details.

And here it becomes  a witness, a memory, a vibrant warning to avoid mattanza ...

* mattanza is Italian word which originally means tuna fish hunting and killing, here is metaphor of human values’ death

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