Perhaps students aversion to poetry also stems from the fact that it appears as old and stodgy. The students have no connection to Shakespeare, Blake, Whitman and Poe and yet they do not realize that poetry is in fact all around them in music, advertising and within other aspects of popular culture.
To that end I have sought to incorporate new media, and especially visual media into my poetry unit. One of the tools that I have used to do this is a site called PicLits.com which allows for "inspired picture writing" and is a perfect platform for free verse poetry writing.
The object of the site, according to the 'about' page is to "put the right words in the right place and the right order to capture the essence, story, and meaning of the picture." Precisely what Coleridge said when talking about poetry "the right words in the right order". For many students, however, the picture provides some inspiration and impetus for writing. Staring at a blank paper does not get the creative juices flowing as much as having a picture in front of you.
Additionally the PicLits sight, which is free, offers users the opportunity to provide feedback on others work. The only drawback to this is the fact that it is difficult to locate specific authors or works due to the lack of a search feature on the sight. If the sites owner reads this it would be a welcome addition to an otherwise very good site.
My students were provided with some instructional materials and notes on free verse poetry and were allowed to freely experiment with the site. The only condition was that they had to create a free verse poem of at least two stanza's. Examples are below. Click on the picture for an enlarged image.