Thursday, March 30, 2017

Classroom Connections: National Poetry Month Kick-Off

In mythology, the muses were the goddesses of music song, and dance. They were depicted as beautiful, young women, and were the keepers of knowledge because they remembered all things. One of their most important roles, however, was providing inspiration for poets. The word museum translates as "seat of the Muse," and poets would often travel to these temples to pray and hope for the gift of inspiration. Poetry senior lecturer Blair Hobbs has updated the ritual, and brings her introductory poetry students to University of Mississippi's own "seat of the Muses," every semester.

Did you know that there were nine muses and each was responsible for a different area of art?
Kalliope (Calliope), epic poetry; Kleio (Clio), history; Ourania (Urania), astronomy;
Thaleia (Thalia), comedy; Melpomene, tragedy; Polymnia (Polyhymnia), religious hymns;
Erato, erotic poetry; Euterpe, lyric poetry; and Terpsikhore (Terpsichore), choral song and dance.

While the visit and tour is meant to encourage their creative thinking and expose them to an excellent campus resource, she also requires the students to select one piece and use it as the inspiration for a poem. She has shared some of the students' work with Museum staff over the last few years, and we are forever impressed at the depth and new meaning that they bring to our collections at the Museum. These unique, interdisciplinary experiences are as enriching for the staff as they are for the students, and, in order to share this experience with the wider community, Museum Education is happy to announce that we will be celebrating National Poetry Month all April long!

For this first post, we've invited Hobbs to kick-off the month with a modified version of the lesson she teaches to her introductory poetry class:

Lesson Plan:
  1. Read and discuss the student poems on the Museum's education blog. 
  2. If possible, take a tour of the University Museum! Tours can be arranged by contacting Education Curator, Emily McCaulley at If it isn't possible to tour the University Museum, visit our website to see pieces in the collection, or visit another local gallery, museum or online virtual gallery of art work. 
  3. As students tour, they should be on the look-out for a piece that resonates with them. Imagine that they're shopping for ONE piece to take home with them. 
  4. Students should take detailed notes and ask questions of their tour guide. They should write down information from the wall plaques; getting the media/medium, date and artist's name is crucial. Often, the poems work best if the title mirrors the art piece's title. 
  5. The following prompts can help students form a poem
    • Imagine you are the person in the art work, so write from that person's perspective (persona poem). Many times, this approach requires some light research, ex. Googling a Roman goddess (wee!)
    • Write a descriptive poem, including brushtrokes, color, type of paint or clay, a series of images AND end with a slight reaction to the piece or a with a memory conjured by the piece. 
  6. Make sure the poem is not melodramatic and too poet-y. Never write the words dream, soul, God, death, or very general adjectives like beautiful, horrible, interesting, exciting--strive to SHOW not TELL
Once students are finished with their poem they can send it to us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter! @ummuseum or use the #joinus4npm. Be sure to check the April Museum Happenings to stay up to date on our latest activities and check back as we post things every Monday and Thursday!

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