A little Boat tied to a Willow-tree
Within a rocky cave, its usual home.
Straight I unloosed her chain, and stepping in
Pushed from the shore.
These lines come from 'Stealing the Boat', from Wordsworth's The Prelude, one of the most important works of Romantic poetry and long considered a 'classic'.
There's something about Wordsworth's description of leaving the safety of the shore and heading out into the darkness that is reminiscent of the experience of reading Romantic poetry - an immersive, emotional and sometimes unsettling experience. However, for many GCSE students, these lines instead conjure up images of terrifying exams looming on the horizon.
The balance between reading and listening to poetry for its own sake, as a form of enjoyment, often seems at odds with the practice of tearing a poem into pieces and analysing it, accompanied by the dreaded question, 'But what does it mean?' The game of spot-the-technique (much loathed by examiners) can also fail to inspire, drawing attention away from the themes and ideas being explored: love, war, murder, revenge, religion, politics...
So how can an app capture the beauty and rhythm of classic poetry?
Firstly, through the use of sound. Hearing poetry read aloud is vital for a more complete appreciation of its rhythm, rhymes, mood and pace.
Next, poetry should be portable! Students can carry poems in their pocket, re-read and re-listen, and make notes on the move.
Finally, app-based learning can help students master the basics. Key terms and techniques can be defined at the touch of a button, meaning students gain confidence in using the vocabulary of critical analysis, freeing up class time for more in-depth discussion.
See www.pearson.co.uk/english-poetry-1789-1902 to find out more about our new poetry resource designed to support learning and revision for GCSE English Literature.