One of the courses I teach is a graduate poetry workshop (I'm teaching it now). The convention is that students submit poems they've written, and class time is spent reading and discussing the students' work, identifying its strengths and weaknesses with an eye toward improving the work as it is revised. It's a good model—the whole sounding-board thing provides a (more or less) impartial response, so that the writer can discover what's getting communicated well, and what's not making it to the reader.
Because I think you can't write well without reading much, I make them read much. I teach a couple of poetry collections at the start of the term, and then I make the students each teach one book of poems at some point as the semester continues, so that we usually discuss one book per class session all term.
The upside is that we get to read a lot of poetry—and not the choppy and random selection found in anthologies, but whole collections, arranged (one hopes) deliberately by the writer, with an argumentative arc and some stylistic/thematic/technical unity. It’s like listening to a good album rather than having the iPod on shuffle (and less and less they understand that distinction, I’m sorry to say). And we read a variety, since the students each pick the text they teach and their tastes tend to be wildly disparate; it opens the door to conversation on a wide range of topics in poetic theory and craft.
But here’s the downside, which is playing out with consistency and vigor this term: sometimes I just LOATHE the books they choose to teach. For a variety of reasons, this term's students have—by sheer chance—decided upon books of poetry that have a particular and shared axe to grind. Now, because THEY’RE doing the teaching, I don’t have to come to class having tunneled into the criticism on these texts. But I do have to read them, and read them thoroughly and responsibly, and at least come up with some craft-related insight...which isn’t easy when the poems seem lazy, predictable, and/or downright propaganda. And I don’t want to spend all my comments talking about the books as if they were negative examples, because someone in the room picked that book out of some sense of aesthetic sympathy, and I’m not looking to say to them, “Clearly, your poetic sensibilities are juvenile.”
And again, I have to read them. Closely. And it’s killing my writing to have so much plodding and artless language filling up my life these days.
***Just for the record: I am aware that if my big complaint is that I have to read bad poetry, I should probably not bitch about my job. It's a pretty good gig, all things considered.