Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading
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Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading
An Educator's Reading List of Contemporary Literature, Literacy, and Reading Issues. Visit us at
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The Library of Congress Is Uploading 75 Years of Poetry and Literature Recordings

The Library of Congress Is Uploading 75 Years of Poetry and Literature Recordings | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
Yesterday selections from the Archive of Recorded Poetry and Literature at the Library of Congress became available to stream online for the first time — the launch of a project digitizing some of their 2,000 recordings from the past 75 years of literature. “I think that reading
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:
24 May 2016


Perhaps my favorite quote from this article says it all, 

“I think that reading poetry and prose on the page is important, but there’s nothing that can replace listening to literature read aloud, especially when it is read by the creator of the work,”
 ~ Catalina Gomez, project manager

I've always sat on the fence about what constitutes an "original source" when speaking of plays, lyrics, and even poetry.

With plays and songs we often are at the mercy of having to experience the text rather than the performance.  In these instances, I think it is easy to justify considering text as a secondary source. Text is not the intended experience of the original piece. It's almost like suggesting that the musical score rather than the music itself is the original source even though the performance rather than the notes that constitute the instruction for delivering the performance is the intended means of communicating the work to its intended audience.

I recently had the opportunity to experience a live performance by Billy Collins and Amy Mann. It was more than the sum of Billy Collins' words and Amy Mann's lyrics. It was choreography. It was interplay. It was an audio visual close encounter with the poet and artist. 

It just doesn't seem like a huge step to include the experience of poetry in the same way. Poetry is melodic. To hear poetry read by the poet; to hear the poet's interpretation of the melody exceeds even the best we can do in reading something we did not write and did not feel as it was created is a "lesser experience." It is, at best, a simulation of the original experience..

To hear the breath of the poet is to experience the heartbeat of the poem.

And thanks to the Library of Congress, we can now get closer to the original poetry than ever before.

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WATCH: A Beautiful Robin Williams Tribute, In Williams' Own Voice

WATCH: A Beautiful Robin Williams Tribute, In Williams' Own Voice | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
This poem honoring the late Robin Williams is beautifully touching on its own. In the hands of Jim Meskimen, the author of the poem and a talented voice actor, it's a masterpiece.

"I've been thinking about Robin Williams all week long, and .....
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

16 August 2014


It may not be what you might expect. But the headline is perfectly accurate. And any literary loving teacher of poetry really ought to consider sharing this ASAP. A lesson in poetry's deep power to reach both the mind and heart.


Your students are ready for this.


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Why Poetry Makes Sense: An Interview With Stephen Burt

Why Poetry Makes Sense: An Interview With Stephen Burt | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
Stephen Burt and I discussed the instructive and useful nature of poetry: how it's a vehicle for self-expression, a valuable means of understanding the world and a resource that is written for an infinite set of audiences.
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

If only we taught literary reading with these benefits at the forefront of our concern for promoting literary reading and our concern for the value of the gift that literary reading can bring to our students' lives.


I know. We do, or want to at least.''


In the excerpt above, the suggestion that poetry is "written for an infinite set of audiences" ought to give one pause. Perhaps a pause for rhetorical brainstorming session is worthwhile. 


Here are two of those audiences, what audiences would you add to the list?


 • future English majors

 • students fearful of failing the test


Now that those two audiences are on the list, what other audiences might poetry be of interest/value to?




I keep wondering how well we are doing our efforts to sell the value of literary reading to ALL of our students. 


And, I found myself pausing at several sentences and phrases sprinkled throughout this article to wonder...


Among those...


" Without pretension or over-analysis, poetry teaches the most practical lessons on love, friendship, romance and the loss of all these things."


And I wondered what happens if we do OR are perceived to be teaching "WITH PRETENSION AND OVER-ANALYSIS"?




"The trick to appreciating poetry? Seeking out and finding the poetry that really speaks to us, that we find instructive, enriching, useful and perhaps even beautiful."


And I wondered whether the pronouns in this quote referred to the teacher or the reader?



"...the instructive and useful nature of poetry: how it's a vehicle for self-expression, a valuable means of understanding the world and a resource that is written for an infinite set of audiences. Burt's expert point of view offers advice for beginning poets on how to build a successful career, acquired tips for readers on how to avoid the trap of picking poems apart for messages..."


And I wondered whether there is some truth in the suggestion that picking poems apart is a trap rather than a window.



And when a reference in the interview mentioned Billy Collins an absolute favorite poet of mine, I wondered how it was that I had never encountered his... 




by Billy Collins


I ask them to take a poem

and hold it up to the light

like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem

and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem’s room

and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski

across the surface of a poem

waving at the author’s name on the shore.

But all they want to do

is tie the poem to a chair with rope

and torture a confession out of it.


They begin beating it with a hose

to find out what it really means."




And I wondered why it is that "they" do that?


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Sunflower Foundation's curator insight, September 2, 2013 11:43 PM

This is so true. Kibera School for Girls, established by Shining Hope for Communities uses poetry and drama to teach. Our foundation awarded them a grant for drama resources last year. We are delighted that their enchanting little K-Gr.1 girls won first prize in the National Poetry Competition. In this case, poetry grounds not only learning but self esteem and communal pride.

Tara McIlroy's curator insight, October 14, 2013 5:35 PM

When we start to look for it, poetry is all around us, and never leaves us. Applications for learning and teaching are found here without needing to look very far.


Olivia Sica's curator insight, October 31, 2014 11:49 AM

I think things like poetry are a positive outlet for people who have emotions they don't know what to do with. If you're feeling overwhelmed, write it down! I can almost guarantee you'll feel better afterwords. 

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Library Way

Images of literary-themed bronze sidewalk insets along Library Way, located on East 41st Street between Park Ave and Fifth Ave in New York City. All images © Gregg LeFevre.
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

Oh MY! This is one of those fortunate finds that leaves me hyperventilating!


What an incredible concept and what an incredible photographic documentation of that concept.


TRUST ME. You're going to want to marinate in these images.


Be sure to click on the outward pointing arrows in the lower right corner of the graphic above to see the images in full screen mode.






Enjoy, Enjoy, Enjoy... and wonder how many ways you might base an engaging literary reading experience for your students upon the concept and /or upon the images.


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The danger of silence

The danger of silence | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
"We spend so much time listening to the things people are saying that we rarely pay attention to the things they don't," says slam poet and teacher Clint Smith. A short, powerful piece from the heart, about finding the courage to speak up against ignorance and injustice.
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

15 August 2014


Wow! A must watch. A must share. A must become.


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13 Poetry Collections For People Who Think They Don't Like Poetry

13 Poetry Collections For People Who Think They Don't Like Poetry | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
When I was first asked to make a list of poetry collections for people who think they don't like poetry, my first thought was, "Well, isn't that just about everyone?" Not quite--I do have nearly 2,000 friends on Facebook, of whom the majori...
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

2 April 2014

It's no secret that poetry's audience is,... well, know, um, let's just say small. There were few teachers in my own education who managed to crack my own resistant wall to poetry; at least the poetry that they felt had to be read in the obstacle course of crossing the diploma line.


I'm not saying that I welcomed the opportunity to become enlightened by the, whatever it was that poetry brought to one's quality of life. Truthfully, my personal appraisal of poetry as a way to expend one's remaining minutes of existence wasn't worth listening to.


But immaturity and adamant ignorance, high volume buffoonery absolute confidence that popularity gained via a sort of daring, yet charming class clownishness are real variables affecting one's young judgment in many cases.


Poetry may have been ready for me to wake up. But, I just wasn't ready to wake up for poetry.


That is until  in the meanderings of my day to day obliviousness I was found myself occasionally  in the right place at the right time with a good reason to let my guard down. 


Do I regret my Metrophobic resistance? I don't know. There are so many roads taken and not taken; perhaps as many missed opportunities as those that were serendipitous.



OKAY, my relationship with poetry aside, I must admit that I'm a big fan of digression ala Holden Caufield chapter 24. While writing that last paragraph, the original phrasing in the first sentence was "Do I regret my poetry-phobic resistance?" And, then I thought, "Geez, probably most people reading this are English teachers, maybe I shouldn't embarrass myself anymore than I do anyway and check to see if there actually is a fear of poetry phobia." So, off on a serendipitous digression I went. Not only is there a word, "metro phobia," but the first website I went to ( had this to say about it in it's opening paragraph.


"Metrophobia, or the fear of poetry, is surprisingly common. Many people first develop this phobia in school, when overzealous teachers encourage them to rank poems according to artificial scales, break them down and search for esoteric meanings. Others simply feel that poetry is somehow “beyond” them, belonging only to the realm of the pretentious and highly educated."


Something to think about as we do our best to promote  Poetry month.



And with that digression the intended trajectory of these comments shifted....


What if I revisited my own perceptions of my early lack of interest in poetry based upon that first paragraph about Metrophobia quoted above.Maybe, I had actually liked poetry given my fairly early enjoyment of Dr. Seuss (except for the inevitable scary pages). Maybe I found those early and risqué encounters with limericks quite interesting. Maybe it was that Pelican poem my father taught me....You know the one that goes...


A wonderful bird is the pelican,

His bill will hold more than his belican

He can take in his beak

Enough food for a week

But I'm damned if I see how the helican!


Oh it was my dad telling me a funny poem that actually used references to the words "damn" and "hell." And, it was so clever in rhyming "pelican" with "belly can" and "hell it can." 


Long before the phrase even existed, this brand of "out of the box thinking" captivated my imagination.


And maybe it was the assumption of accepted practice in teaching literary analysis, like frog dissection, was the obvious way to get kids to appreciate poetry rather than one very effective way to take the inherent wonderfulness out of poetry and kill it as dead as that frog we were dissecting in biology class.


But, as I look back on my own oscillating interest in poetry, there are recollections (some perhaps embarrassing others not) of key experiences that brought me out of the fog where instant rejection reigned supreme. And, the list made it very clear to me that everyone's journey to literary appreciation varies. What "did it" for me was a unique experience. The specific literary pieces that worked for me worked because of a complex interaction between the works themselves, the readiness I  had for being receptive, the influences of my own personal experiences' and perceptions of those experiences on my zone of proximal development and the artistry of those educators, friends, and real or imagined girl friends.


For what it's worth... among the most paradigm-altering experiences with poetry in my own journey were the following:

The Beatles' Eleanor Rigby

John Denver

Bob Dylan

Woody Guthrie


Shel Silverstein

Dr. Seuss

Joe Cocker's You are so Beautiful

"Stories and Prose Poems" by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Langston Hughes' "Harlem" (A Dream Deferred)

LeRoi Jones (I don't even remember the specific poem, but I do remember that it slammed up against the wall and made me think about things)

Gordon Parks

Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken

and even Rod McKuen


And, now, curiously, I find myself remembering more and more as I look for a spot to stop adding to the list. But, you can probably see what I'm seeing.


It was the 60's  And, I'm convinced that it was because the bridge between where I was and the poetry I"m remembering was a short bridge. I found that bridge "crossable." And, I found that in crossing that bridge, that nearby slightly longer bridges were more interesting than I'd previously thought they might be. 


e.e. cummings, Shel Silverstein, Dr. Seuss, limericks, and that Pelican poem my dad used to ask me if I'd ever heard every time we saw a pelican and I asked my own children every time we saw a pelican.all intrigued me in their "at the edge" of word play and out of the box thinking.


Bob Dylan and Arlo Guthrie led me to Woody Guthrie, Alan Lomax, and T.S.Eliot. Mark Twain's War Prayer.


But, the question is, "Is my particular journey from poetry-resistant to poetry-interest a prescription as in here-are-the-poems-that-got-me-so-they're-the-poems-I-should-teach?"


Of course not. But, they do suggest that for many, the journey to appreciation for the unappreciative might have some remarkable similarities to my journey if we find a way to begin with lyrics, and poetry, and word play, and childhood memories and experiences to which they already have a welcoming receptiveness.


And, what I can say is that although I am not a believer in the infallibility of data-driven decision making, I can't help but suggest that IF POETRY is worth teaching, then the data seems to be indicating that we are having a disturbingly low success rate for our efforts in promoting poetry as a welcome addition to our students' life-long reading practice.


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Olivia Sica's curator insight, October 31, 2014 11:47 AM

If you think you don't like poetry... 

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ShaL i compR thee 2a summer's dai?

ShaL i compR thee 2a summer's dai? | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
Forget penning odes with a quill and parchment – predictive text is the poetry tool of the future according to Carol Ann Duffy, who believes "the poem is a form of texting ...
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

Coincidence that I'm finding articles that take me to thoughts of hypocrisy? Dunno, but I'm intrigued by how many very interesting articles I'm finding on the website. A site otherwise devoted to the depths of superficiality to which one can delve in the fashion world.


Okay. Maybe fashionista-living will lead one to complete safisfaction with how a life has been spent. I just can't quite get past the lemming-ness of it.


Nevertheless, there are quite freguently very intriguing literary articles to be found on the site.


This one is a bit on the light side, but I'd bet there'd be some great possibilities for engaged learning here. The article presents the original poems, many often taught in schools, followed by a "translation" into "TEXT SPEAK," the shortcut text that pretty much every cell-phone tethered teen is quite familiar with.


I had an interesting thought as I read through these poems and their "translations." My guess is that those of us less "proficient" at TEXT SPEAK might find  a sort of fingernails-on-the-chalkboard (assuming many of us actually remember the sound of fingernails on the chalkboard!) ear-pain as the beauty of the original poetry clashes with our sense of the ugliness of the TEXT SPEAK translation.


Yet, in a sense, we might be responding as TSSL (Text Speak as Second Language) speakers. It may be that the disconnect isn't there for native TEXT SPEAKers. I wonder if they might read the TEXT SPEAK version, not only not bothered by the disconnect, but not even noticing it AND thereby potentially as equally moved by the beauty of the poem's sentiments as we might be less capable of appreciating because we are bothered by "poor translation."


I taught Candide for decades. I don't speak French, but for the first 2.5 decades, I gave little attention to the quality of the English translation. But, somewhere in the third decade, when ordering replacement copies, the district ordered copies with a different translation. And, I was shocked at what I perceived as the ugliness of the new translation.


The translation I'd used for 2.5 decades began...


"In Westphalia, in the castle of My Lord the Baron of Thunder-ten-tronckj, there was a young man whom nature had endowed with the gentlest of characters. His face bespoke his soul. His judgment was rather sound and his mind of the simplist..."


I loved the phrasing...

"endowed with the gentlest of characters"

"His face bespoke his soul."

"his mind of the simplest"


It was so poetic.


BUT The new translation! Oh my! It began...


"In the country of Westphalia, in the castle of the most noble Baron of Thunder-ten-tronckh, lived a youth whom Nature had endowed with a most sweet disposition. His face was the true index of his mind. He had a solid judgment joined to the most unaffected simplicity..." 


How dry. How it "didn't sing" to me. How disappointed I was.


And then there was the reverse case experience. I'd read Don Quixote (well okay the famous parts anyway) and found it hilarious and a quite wonderful read. Then several years later, a "new translation" by Edith Grossman was published. The translation was heralded as being magnificent. And, it was. It brought a pulse to the read that I had not missed in my previous readings. But recognized immediately when compared to the new translation.


My point? Perhaps we see a degradation in going from an original version of the poems in this article to the TEXT SPEAK versions and thereby do not or can not appreciate the "translation" as I was never quite able to appreciate the "new" translation of Candide. While at the same time our students who are more comfortable with TEXT SPEAK are in a position more similar to my experience with Don Quixote in that the quality of the poorer earlier translations did not hamper my appreciation of the story at all and perhaps never would have hampered my appreciation had I not chosen to reread the book in its newer and better translation.


What if a students is moved by reading...


how do i ♥ thee? lt me count d ways.

i ♥ thee2 d depth & breadth & h8t

my soul cn reach, wen fEln out of site

4 d ends of bn & ideal grace.


He or she might be as moved as we were when we first read...


How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

I love thee to the depth and breadth and height

My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight

For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.


I dunno why, but I think it might be easier for a student who loved the TEXT SPEAK version to transition to the traditional version and thereby find even more to appreciate (as I did moving from old Don Quixote to new Don Quixote translation) than it was for me to move the other direction as was the case when I moved from old Candide to new Candide.


We might be wary of how we express our opinion about what our kids read and enjoy and by doing so miss a great opportunity to move their existing appreciation to even higher levels by sharing the "better" translation.


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