In his essay “Twenty Little Poems That Could Save America,” Tony Hoagland laments the failure of poetry to find a place in the mainstream of American culture. Apparently this has happened in part because “real live American poetry is absent from our public schools.”
This is more than a shame, for poetry is our common treasure-house, and we need its aliveness, its respect for the subconscious, its willingness to entertain ambiguity; we need its plaintive truth-telling about the human condition and its imaginative exhibitions of linguistic freedom, which confront the general culture’s more grotesque manipulations. We need the emotional training sessions poetry conducts us through. We need its previews of coming attractions: heartbreak, survival, failure, endurance, understanding, more heartbreak.
Public school English curriculum poems that Hoagland calls “old chestnuts,” like Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken,” no longer capture the imaginations of the young, and need to be replaced with fresher poems that would comprise “a new canon” to invigorate American teens with a passion for the imaginative and intellectual properties of language. He proposes a list of twenty American poems and explains the pedagogical function each would serve.
If you were to do the same for our public schools, which twenty Canadian poems would you choose?