In the Spotlight

Making Sense of Poetry

Are you a teacher looking for more ideas to help your students delve into poetry? Or a student who would like to know more about the poem you've chosen to recite? The Poetry Foundation's Learning Lab is here to help you reach a deeper understanding of poetry. Below are the Poetry Out Loud poems in the Learning Lab's archives that have guides accompanying them. Also, many of these are notated and come with discussion and writing ideas as well. Dive right in!

Anne Bradstreet's "To My Dear and Loving Husband"

Anne Bradstreet became a cultural icon for speaking out. Anne Hutchinson was banished.


Gwendolyn Brooks' "kitchenette building"

The Chicago poet transports readers into a dream deferred.



Emily Dickinson's "It was not Death, for I stood up"

Music and adolescent angst in the (18)80s.


John Donne's "The Sun Rising"

The poet tries to start a revolution from his bed.


Robert Duncan's "Often I Am Permitted to Return to a Meadow"

On Robert Duncan’s incantatory summons.


George Herbert's "Love (III)"

A 17th-century poet’s project invites its readers to the table


Gerard Manley Hopkins' "The Windhover"

A rapturous re-reading of the poet's love poem to life.


John Keats' "La Belle Dame sans Merci"

Beyond self-expression.


John Keats' "To Autumn"

In Keats’s finest season, even the gnats are mourning.


Philip Larkin's "An Arundel Tomb"

Does a notoriously grumpy poet believe in everlasting love?


Mina Loy's "Lunar Baedeker"

The poet navigates the unknown world.


Percy Bysshe Shelly's "Ozymandias"

A poem to outlast empires.


Stevie Smith "Not Waving, But Drowning"

This poem finds its author not raving but frowning.



An Ironworker Manufactures Order

In the June 2012 issue of Poetry magazine former ironworker, Josh Warn writes about the pleasures and benefits of memorizing and reciting poetry. From the article:

"Ironwork is often artful though, if not arty, and there are reasons that carrying longish poems in memory has some of the same satisfactions as completing a difficult weld or fitting a steel handrail to a curved stair. For one thing, when you haul out a poem from the brain’s back room, it feels like you own it. Each time you run through it you see different inflections you might use. Though the copyright owner might disagree, you share in his or her creative expression."

Read all of the article on the Poetry Foundation's website