Finding poetry and a poet for college-bound international students is a pedagogical puzzle. Do I want someone funny, someone simple? Do I want symbolism, metaphor, rhythm, or clarity? Do I need someone contemporary; someone who will relate to these young adults from Japan, Brazil, Italy, or Saudi Arabia?
Emily Dickinson. Her verses are short; use symbolism; present idioms and vocabulary that can be guessed in context; set an obtainable challenge to meaning and contemporary application; and, surprisingly enough, are accessible to our multi-national student body.
For an elective course entitled "Here's Hollywood", ("Fame is a fickle food / Upon a shifting plate...") idiom, metaphor and new vocabulary lead to discussion, contemporary analogies and the realization, "I can understand poetry, in English!"
An advanced level reading of a news magazine article on war and its victims ("Hope is the thing with feathers / That perches in the soul...") leads to a commitment on the part of the students to practice peace and hold hope. Students listen to a National Public Radio excerpt on euthanasia, ("All but Death can be Adjusted...") and the class culminates in a spirited debate.
Miss Dickinson’s poetry has been used for dictation, vocabulary, grammar analysis, discussion, debate, journal entries, essays, film tie-ins, and, most of all, has made amazing contributions to cross-cultural understanding and global connections. Take an American woman of letters, apply her verse to issues in current culture, and global youth begin to talk about fame, hope and death. What educator could help but be an ardent fan.
Santa Monica, California