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4 Delicious Reasons to Learn English with Poetry

February 1, 2023

Do you like poetry? Personally, I have never had much interest in it. But as a writer and lover of words, I knew that one day I would need to give poetry a chance. And that day has arrived!

Every year, instead of making a New Year's resolution, I choose one word to focus on for the entire year. I encourage friends and family (and Ellii staff) to choose a Word of the Year too. This year, my Word of the Year is poetry

word of the year 2023 on Tara's office wall

Tara's Word of the Year wall for 2023, featuring her word (poetry) as well as words chosen by those who accepted her challenge. In case you're wondering if the word respair is a mistake, it's not! 

Though we're only a few weeks into 2023, I’m embracing poetry like I never thought I would! 

Did you know? The word poetry comes from the Greek word poiein, meaning "to make."

4 delicious reasons poetry is good for language learning

As the head of the Publishing team here at Ellii, one thing I've been thinking about a lot is how poetry could be used for language learning.

As a teacher, it would be easy for me to try to convince you that when you study poetry, you use the four macro skills (Reading, Writing, Listening, and Speaking) as well as the three micro skills (Vocabulary, Grammar, and Pronunciation), but that’s not very poetic! Instead, let's think about the deliciousness of a poem.

1. Poetry is digestible

Unlike an article, a short story, or a novel, most poems can be read in a minute or two. You can enjoy the surface level of a poem or you can choose to go deeper and study it more fully. Think of a poem as just a moment in time. After you read or listen to a poem (and I hope you do both), try to have just one takeaway.

Challenge: How did the poem make you feel?

2. Poetry is full of delectable words

Poets are word lovers! They find the best words to describe exactly how they are thinking or feeling in a moment. When you start studying poetry, you’ll recognize many words, but you’ll also find delicious words you don’t know.

Challenge: Try to learn at least one new word from every poem you read. Make a list. (I do this myself!)

3. Poetry comes in every flavor

You might think you don’t like poetry because you associate poems with love. But there’s so much more to poetry than sappy sonnets! There are poems about growing up, being in nature, leaving home, and getting a new job. Poems come in all shapes and sizes and can be about anything and everything (including AI).

Chat GPT Limerick

Screenshot from CBC video ChatGPT Bot Passes Law Exam

Challenge: Search the internet for “a poem about (word of your choice)." You could also search for lyrics, which can be a form of poetry. 

4. Poetry can make you hungry for more

When you’re learning a new language (or anything new), it is easy to get sidetracked (in other words, you fall off the wagon). At times, language learning feels like just another thing on your to-do list. But what if you felt a hunger for learning English? If you give it a chance, poetry can actually entice you to keep learning. Instead of feeling like a chore, you'll start to crave a new poem!

Challenge: Try reading a poem a day for a week. I hope you find 365 poems you love this year! (That's my goal.)

4 things to do with a poem

If you aren't sure what to do with a poem, here are four things to try:

  1. Listen to the poem. (This is my favorite part of studying poetry so far.)
  2. Read the poem silently to your self. (Circle words you don’t know and add at least one to your notebook.)
  3. Write a few lines in a notebook. (How was the poet feeling in this moment? How does the poem make me feel?)
  4. Recite the poem. (Look up words you don’t know how to pronounce.)

Did you notice all the skills you used?

4 places to find poetry

Here are some places I've been going to find poetry. 

  1. Poetry Unbound (a delicious podcast hosted by Irish poet Pádraig Ó Tuama)
  3. Poetry Foundation's Poem of the Day
  4. The Poetry section of my local library and bookstore

Please share a tip if you have some suggestions of your own!


  • macro: large, main
  • micro: small, minor
  • digestable: easy to consume
  • surface level: just the basics
  • takeaway: an important thing or detail that you liked or learned
  • delectable: delicious, attractive
  • sappy: overly emotional 
  • lyrics: words in songs
  • crave: to feel like you really want to eat (or have)
  • recite: to say out loud, especially from memory

Will you give poetry a chance? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Related tips for English learners

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Comments (2)

Lucia Padilla(Author)

This is such an interesting post, thanks for sharing it Tara!

I’ve very recently started to read poetry and I’ve found it a beautiful experience. Some poems are harder than others for me to understand but I’ve discovered that it’s a great way to learn new vocabulary and test my English comprehension. It’s liberating to see that there are no specific rules for writing poetry. I love that this literary genre gives authors way more artistic freedom, pushing the reader to new boundaries.

My favorite poem so far is “Flatline” by Margaret Atwood, is a beautiful piece about aging.

Reply to Comment

Tara Benwell(Author)

Thanks for sharing your poetry experience, Lu! It's lovely knowing you are on this literary journey with me. I loved "Flatline" too (from Best Canadian Poetry 2021, with editor Souvankham Thammavongsa, author of How to Pronounce Knife).
And, yes, so liberating! One of my favourite poems so far is only a few sentences.

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