getting to know the fpp poetry institute: a q&a with robert pinsky

by Laurin Macios | January 2016

Recent video from Favorite Poem Project

How long has the Poetry Institute for K-12 Educators been in existence?
This July 17-21 will be our 16th session!

What can teachers expect to gain or learn from the attending? 
The teachers gain a lot from one another. Guided by our experienced “key teachers” at each grade level (all alums of the Institute), they discuss the videos at and a range of ideas and texts presented in seminars by our faculty poets. The overall idea is to teach poetry as an art: more like dancing or singing than well-meaning analysis sometimes implies.

The poets—this year, Maggie Dietz, Gail Mazur, Jill McDonough, Carl Phillips and me, along with FPP Director Duy Doan—in our seminars talk about poetry and poems. We don’t try to tell the teachers how to teach, though we welcome the subject. But the discussion of actual classroom teaching happens in those grade-level small groups, twice a day.

In what ways has the program changed since its inception?
For me, I’ve gained an increasing appreciation of what the elementary and middle school teachers bring to the Institute. They deal with a clientele that already loves poetry, has not learned to fear or dislike it—therefore, they bring a corrective openness to our work. I think I’ve learned that intellectually rigorous, demanding work can be anchored by listening.  In what’s become a slogan, you may analyze the musical score— but not before you’ve heard the music.

Is the Institute for English teachers or does it benefit teachers of all subjects?
Though this is mainly the work of English teachers, we have welcomed science, math, and physical education teachers, in addition to librarians and administrators. One of our principles is that poetry is an essential, effective way to teach writing and language—including English as a Second Language. And the videos have been used effectively in social science and history, as well—for example, in units about topics such as war or immigration.

Are there separate classes for K-12 teachers, or are teachers of all grades learning together? In what ways does this benefit the teachers?
For the seminars with faculty, everyone participates together. The small group meetings with key teachers are by grade level.

For more information, please click here. Click here to submit an application (includes brief statement of intent and resume). Admissions are rolling. The final deadline for submission is June 30, 2017.

Registration fee: $400
Parking: $10 per day, $20 per day/night
Housing: $70 per night, $350 for the week