Alternative approach yields new experiences for students in poetry class through field trips

By Katie Bonanni
February 9, 2011

Students from Amy Persichetti’s experiential poetry class visited Marakesh, an authentic Moroccan restaurant, located in Philadelphia. This trip, along with others to places like the Eastern State Penitentiary, expose students to different environments that they later write about.

An experiential poetry class at the college has taken a very different route from other classes that are offered here.

“This semester, students will be going on a series of journeys, both metaphorically as well as in the real world where [most] of us live,” Amy Persichetti, English professor, said.  Instead of sitting in a classroom day in and out, over the course of the semester, students will go on a series of five field trips.

The trips that Persichetti takes her class on introduce her students to culture around Philadelphia.  An important part of the class is learning to be honest and constructively criticize your peer’s work. Since students sometimes do not feel comfortable writing and sharing poems in class, by taking trips together, they can bond with each other and the professor.  By the end of the semester, students should feel more comfortable and inclined to be honest and criticize each other’s work.

The trips do not help the students become more familiar with poetry or understand it more.  Even though Persichetti is not sure if it is possible for anyone to completely understand poetry, it is developed in the readings, discussions and workshops that the students participate in.  The trips are more to teach the students how to pay attention to experiences.

“Poetry isn’t a viable profession for most.  However, learning how to enjoy the moment and pay attention to experience is a tool that can make even the most unremarkable lives worthwhile,” Persichetti said.  “That’s why I love poems.  There’s always that one line that just hits you at the core and says, this is your humanity.”

The most recent trip that the class took was to Marrakesh, an authentic Moroccan restaurant, located on South Street in Philadelphia.

According to Persichetti, the food at Marrakesh is unlike any other, and it is highly sensory.  At the restaurant, the tables are low and surrounded by colorful couch-like seating.  Prior to beginning the seven-course feast that is eaten with your hands, servers at Marrakesh wash your hands with rose water.

The meals are all shared by one another served on a large platter.  This makes for a great bonding experience for the whole class.

“It was a very unique experience and it was a great way for our class to bond and get to know one another,” Colleen Anastasi, sophomore exercise science major, said.

Some students in the class are English majors and others just want to see what the class is about.  It is also not a good course to take if you just want to go on field trips.

“There has to be a serious love for poetry and self expression,” Persichetti said.  “Of course the 8:15 a.m. time slot filters the students who are and aren’t really interested in poetry.”

The other trips that the Experiential Poetry Class takes are the Wharton Eshrick museumLongwood Gardens and Eastern State Penitentiary.

Katie Bonanni

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