Ask the group to work in pairs for a few minutes to write a definition of 'poetry'. Get each group to feed back their definition and discuss whether it works - i.e. does the definition fully define what poetry is?
1. Put the discussion about the definition of poetry aside and hand out or display the prose text, without telling students that it is the text of a poem. Ask students to discuss this text. First, they should think about the text's meanings and their response to the ideas in it and the language used. Discuss as a class.
Then, ask them to think about what kind of text it might be. Might it come from a longer text? If so, what kind of text? Could it be considered poetry - or, if not poetry, 'poetic'?
Next, ask the students to convert the text into verse. They can either take the words exactly as they are, or thy can modify them in a way that they think would be effective, for instance by leaving words out or adding them. Share some of the students' work with the class and ask them to talk about what they did and why.
Does this exercise help them to refine their definition of poetry?
2. Hand out the sheet with two verse versions of the text. Ask students to work in pairs to read these two versions and compare them. Does the text seem different from the prose version because of its different layouts? Do they hear it or read it differently, and does this seem to change the meaning or impact of the text at all? How are the two different versions different, and which of the two seems more effective? What can they say about the form of these poems - e.g., can they see any rhyme or consistency in line length or stanza length, or is it entirely free verse? What, if any, logic can they see in the way the lines and stanzas are laid out?
Ask students to prepare readings of the three different texts so far. Listen to some of the readings and discuss the way the layout of the text seems to affect them.
3. Now give students the actual poem 'Considering the Snail', without telling them that it is the actual poem. Ask them to read it, and discuss how this version is different from the other versions. Which do they prefer? What can they say about the form of this last poem?
Reveal to the students that the words they have now read in four different forms are the words of an actual poem. Ask them which of the three verse versions they think is the actual poem.
Play the Poetry Archive recording of 'Considering the Snail'. What do they think of the reading? Which of the three poetry versions does the reading suggest is the real one?
4. Reveal that the last version is the actual poem, and, if they have not already spotted it, draw out and discuss the elements of form in it - rhyme scheme using half rhymes (ABCABC), syllabic metre (7 syllables per line, apart from the last line which is 8 syllables), six line stanzas, frequent enjambement. Why do they think the poet has arranged the poem in this way? Does it enhance or illuminate the meaning in any way or change their response?
5. Develop a discussion of the ideas of half rhyme and syllabic metre, and help students to understand their significance within the tradition of modernism. Explain that these features were not commonly used in poetry until the modernist movement reacted against the conventions of traditional poetry.
Why might poets decide to use a 'hidden' form, with partially hidden rhyme and metre, rather than free verse or fully rhyming and metrical verse? What are the possible attractions or advantages of each from the perspective of (a) the writer and (b) the reader. Are the three types of verse particularly suitable for specific types of content or expression?
Return to the original question - what is the definition of poetry? Has the exercise (especially the transformation of a text from prose to verse) helped them to decide on a definition? Reflect also on what they have learnt about poetic form, especially the use of rhyme and metre.