So Your Teacher Made You Hate Poetry

Stand up straight, she said, then stared,
waiting for you to recite by heart an old sonnet
or ode you couldn’t follow. Poetry’s meant 
for someone smart, you told yourself, mumbling
memorized words that sounded like hooey,
or secret code. Every time you stumbled,
she made you start again from the top.

Why can’t poets just say what they mean?
you thought, pausing for breath between stanzas.
And just like that you forgot the next word.
Every trace of chalk, erased from the blackboard
of your miserable mind. Back you went to that awful
first line. Enough, she said at last with a smirk,
red pen scribbling in her green gradebook.

Why do I have to read this stuff? you wanted
to shout, but clamped your mouth shut,
and locked your voice down, and never read
another poem in your life, by choice anyhow,
until now—when finally you’ve begun
to see it’s never too late to learn to love
what somebody else once taught you to hate.

Play Notes: So many people have told me stories over the years about how they learned to dislike poetry when they were forced to recite it in school. This poem is for all of them! But as the last two lines reveal, the poem is about more than poetry. You might try to write a poem in which the significance of the text changes, or takes on an added dimension, at the very end. This sort of thing is common in poems, especially in "wisdom" or "didactic" poetry.