In my first year teaching high school English in a reputable district, I eagerly applied to be the sponsor of the Creative Writing Club. Students, mostly 10th and 11th grade girls, had expressed interest in a club that allowed them to share their writing, so I volunteered to facilitate this forum in my classroom once a week. What I found to be most interesting was that when it came time to write and share their work, it was all poetry.
The main topic that was shared was about breaking up with their boyfriends and girlfriends, with themes that revealed jealousy, revenge, loyalty, love, and, for the most part, being a teenager in love. Occasionally, there would be one on nature or some event, but usually those were “inspired” by the writer’s muse, who happened to either do something special for them or something awful (you guessed it–a break up). But the other topic that was covered frequently was drugs, and, again, either the drugs were the “muse” or the poem attempted to describe the effect the drugs had on them.
Let me take a moment here to clarify that this experience does not exemplify my overall experience as a high school teacher. The overwhelming majority of my students didn’t concern themselves with drugs, nor did it take up so much of their thoughts that they felt it necessary to write about it. The students in this creative writing class were a unique bunch, and their ability to discuss these issues came with limitations, which were strictly adhered to.
With that said, let me continue…
I am reminded of this club (which was about 8 years ago and only lasted for one semester for the reasons aforementioned) because the novel Crank tackles the topics of drugs and teenage relationships in poetry form. And it does it very well, I might add. The economy of the language is what impresses me the most. Hopkins is able to create the characters and develop the plot with a brevity that would usually have the reader asking for more. (However, I made a similar point about Crutcher and got slammed for it.)
And while the poetry form is even fun at times (the topography creates images that represent what the text is saying), it always comes back to the content when discussing its usefulness in classrooms. I remember this book being a hot topic in my own home state of Texas, and nationally it has attracted even more attention. But again, it seems to me that this book is speaking to an intended audience, so to what extent, if any, do we allow this novel into secondary English classrooms? Moreover, to what extent, if any, does this novel help with the teaching of poetry?
Feel free to discuss the questions at the end, or to simply talk about what you did or didn’t like about either of this week’s novels. As long as your comments show thoughtfulness, anything goes.