Friday Poem of the Week–Teaching Irony Through Poetry

   Teaching Irony through Poetry
(for Mary G., who understood irony and so much else)

A Poem in the Form of a Dialogue between Teacher and Students

Teacher:  “Robert Frost’s ‘Mending Wall’
Has an excellent example of the use of irony.
Since you’ve all read it for homework
Where is the irony in the poem?”

Student: “In the title?”

T: “Good guess, but no. Keep trying.”

S: “…”

T: “Any other ideas?”

S: “…”

T: “What about the neighbor’s statement, ‘Good fences make
Good neighbors?’ “

S: “That’s not ironic; it’s true.”

T: “Do you think Frost believed that it was true?”

S: “Can we ask him?”

T: “No; hes dead.”

S: “Bummer.”

T: “Yes, well, it happens to the best of us. Now, what if I told you that he believed the opposite?”

S: “That good fences make bad neighbors?”

T: “Yes, something like that.”

S: “That’s not true–our neighbor has a dog that digs up our flowers and pees all over the lawn. My parents have asked them to put up a good fence to keep the dog out. They won’t, so aren’t they bad neighbors?”

T: “Sounds like it.”

S: “So: no fences make bad neighbors. Good fences would make good neighbors where there’s an untrained dog involved.”

T: “…”

S: “So what was irony again?”

T: “Let’s try that another day. I’ve had too much fun today.”

S: “You always say that. Do you mean it?”

T: “Oh, yes.” With all my heart.

–Dan Verner

(Based on a number of dialogues with students over the years)

1 Comment

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One response to “Friday Poem of the Week–Teaching Irony Through Poetry

  1. HAHAHA! I love these dialogues, Dan.I've got an ironic "wall" poem in my book, "Poems from the Battlefield." Since you have the book, you have probably read it.

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