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Building an understanding and appreciation of poetry with Vaughan Rapatahana

Author and poet, Vaughan Rapatahana, answers questions around the importance of poetry and how to understand and develop an appreciation for it.

Why is poetry important?

Poetry is important for so many meaningful reasons. Among the most significant are that it helps students to appreciate different ways of writing and word use, learn about settings and customs other than those they are used to, and – especially – set down their own emotions and ideas.

How has poetry changed in recent times?

Poetry nowadays is much more than rhyming lines and set patterns. It can include pictures and experimentation with line length and spacing, and can be written as rap or prose.

What is the best way to spark a life-long interest in and appreciation of poetry?

The best approach is to make everything to do with poetry fun! Don’t get caught up in poetic terminology – at least, not before your students are hooked on poetry. Also hold back from introducing overly complicated vocabulary and/or vague themes and ideas.

What are some ideas for making poetry fun?

  • Give students time to build their appreciation of the poem under discussion with fun activities that develop their understanding of any words they will encounter.
  • Choose poems that students can relate to, even if the setting is not one near them.
  • Ask simple questions about what the poem looks like and how it uses words, as well as questions about what happens in the poem and why. Look out for opportunities for students to work with a partner or group if it suits.
  • Keep in mind that questions about a poem usually have no “right” answers.
  • Have more than one reading of the poem out loud with lots of expression – involving both teacher and students.
  • Follow up with enjoyable activities that go beyond writing, writing, writing. Many activities may ask students to create their own poem.

Remember fun is the key. Poems can and should be humorous and happy. Why not, for example, write shape poems and acrostics?

If you are seeking a range of poems written by leading international poets, Exploring Multicultural Poetry is the resource for you. In completing the activities, students not only come to appreciate the language and images of the poems you are studying, but also explore other ways of life across the globe, as well as in an increasingly multicultural Aotearoa New Zealand and Australia.

Enjoy your adventures with poetry!

Vaughan Rapatahana

About the author

Vaughan Rapatahana (Te Ätiawa) commutes between homes in Hong Kong, Philippines, and Aotearoa New Zealand. He is widely published across several genre in both his main languages, te reo Mäori and English and his work has been translated into Bahasa Malaysia, Italian, French, Mandarin, Romanian, Spanish.

He earned a Ph. D from the University of Auckland with a thesis about Colin Wilson and writes extensively about Wilson. Rapatahana is a critic of the agencies of English language proliferation and the consequent decimation of indigenous tongues, inaugurating and co-editing English language as Hydra and Why English? Confronting the Hydra (Multilingual Matters, Bristol, UK, 2012 and 2016).

He is also a poet, with eight collections published in Hong Kong SAR; Macau; Philippines; USA; England; France, India, and Aotearoa New Zealand. Atonement (UST Press, Manila) was nominated for a National Book Award in Philippines (2016); he won the inaugural Proverse Poetry Prize the same year; and was included in Best New Zealand Poems (2017).

In July 2018, he participated in the Hauterives Literary Festival in France. In September 2019, he participated in the World Poetry Recital Night, in Kuala Lumpur. Malaysia. In October 2019, he participated in the Poetry International Festival at The Southbank Centre, London. He also appeared at the Medellin Poetry Festival in Colombia during August 2021,

Rapatahana is one of the few World authors who consistently writes in and is published in te reo Mäori (the Mäori language). It is his mission to continue to do so and to push for a far wider recognition of the need to write and to be published in this tongue.

New Zealand Book Council Writers File is https://www.bookcouncil.org.nz/writer/rapatahana-vaugh

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