Mr. Franka started out class the next day by saying, "How many of you don't like poetry?"
Many hands went up. Including mine.
He passed an open book to a kid in the front row. "Read that out loud."
The kid started reading this poem about a guy freezing to death up in the Yukon. It was pretty cool. Mr. Franca grabbed another book and handed it to a girl. She read a short, funny poem about a pelican. Then I got to read one called "On the Naming of Cats." I liked it.
After we'd heard three or four more poems, Mr. Franka said, "There are as many types of poems as there are types of food. As many flavors, you might say. To claim you don't like poetry because you hate 'mushy stuff' or things you don't immediately understand is like saying you hate food because you don't like asparagus."
He looked around the room again. "So, who can at least tolerate poetry?"
All the hands went up.
"Let's visit Xanadu." He gave us a page number in our textbooks. "Read 'Kublah Kahn' to yourself. Listen to the music. Let Coleridge speak to you."
I started reading, and was hooked by the fourth line.
Mr. Franka read us another poem, called "To Augusta." This one was sort of mushy, but even so the words sounded pretty cool. They flowed, like good music.
"Byron," Mr. Franka said, closing the book. "You've all heard his work, whether you realize it or not. She walks in beauty like the night. You can't tell me that line doesn't kick butt. Byron even wrote a poem filled with ghosts and vampires."
That caught my attention. Before I could ask about the poem, he said, "I won't tell you the name. If you really want to find it, you'll have to hunt it down. Or should I say, haunt it down?"
From there, he skipped around to some of his other favorite poets. Not once during the whole class did Mr. Franka utter those deadly words, "Now, what does this line mean?" He actually let us enjoy the poems without analyzing them to death. As he told us, sometimes a dying snake is just a dying snake. Sometimes a leafless tree is just a tree.
Here's a link to the book: http://davidlubar.com/bpsfnl.html