Dorothea Lasky on poetry and education

I’ve always deeply blamed our education system, because I do think there’s elitism at play that wants to make not only poetry, but all the arts very specialised past a certain point of development. Certainly in high school only the ‘smart’ children […] are privy to learning how to ‘unpack’ a poem, how to really tackle poem and conquer it, because their intellect is made to seem so specialised. We don’t, especially in the US, want to look at poetry as something every student is capable of, because that would be dangerous to those who control the school systems. All students, regardless of their backgrounds, would realise that they are capable of speaking very well; that there are not certain individuals who control what constitutes good language. They would realise that language is not just this agreed upon set of constructed ideas, that it’s not an MLA citation or a five-paragraph essay, that everyone can create new and beautiful language. So it is very frustrating to me when people say, ‘I don’t like poetry,’ or, ‘I don’t understand it,’ because all of that seems the fault of a system that doesn’t want to give poetry its power, and that doesn’t want to give people their power either.

— Dorothea Lasky, in an interview with Rebecca Tamás at Prac Crit.