Poetry month is over and I didn’t make it through the month with my mentor poem project. I do want to return to it but sometimes, you know, life has other plans.
One of the most difficult things for me has been to find mentor poems that we also available online so that other people could read them and teachers could use it as a resource. I have some poems left that will make good mentor poems but they are long and didn’t work in the short pockets of time I had available.
This was my 5th year doing a poem a day and the 1st year that I failed to make it through the month. I’m not going to list excuses because it doesn’t really matter. In fact, I’m not going to call it a failure, just a postponement while I find my footing once again.
In the meantime, if you know of short poems that would be good for models, and that are available online, please feel free to leave them in the comments.
Yay, it’s National Poetry Month! That wonderful time of year where poetry loves gather and share original poems, favorite poems, anything poetry related.
This year I am going to use the month to work on poems modeled on other poems. This is a great exercise in the classroom, especially for students (or adults) who are intimidated by the idea of writing poetry. What you do is pick a model, or mentor poem, and then write your own version of the poem. I hope you’ll give it a try along with me.
Let’s start with an easy one, This Is Just To Say by William Carlos Williams. You can click the link to read the original poem.
Here’s my first draft of poem modeled in the same style.
This is Just to Say
I have taken
but there was
a love story
waiting to be told.
—Susan Taylor Brown
Looking for more poetry events in the Kidlitosphere? Check out Jama’s round-up of all the fun.
First my confession. It’s been a long time goal of mine to be in a poetry anthology. And now, at last, I am! I have a poem in The Poetry Friday Anthology.
Teachers who want to bring more poetry into the class AND tie it to the curriculum standards will love this book.
From the announcement flyer:
“The Poetry Friday Anthology brings the Poetry Friday concept into the classroom or library and makes it easy to take five minutes every Friday (or any day) to share a poem.
Explore a poem, connect it with children’s lives and capitalize on a teachable moment. Pausing to share a poem – and reinforce a language skill – on Poetry Friday is a simple and effective way to infuse poetry into your own current teaching practice or routine.”
This anthology is available in both print and e versions. Go to amazon.com and type “Poetry Friday Anthology” into the search box and check it out!
Well I won my round 2 match in the poetry tournament and my round 3 has just been posted. I have the word “impaled” and am up against the very talented Greg Pincus who has the word “truce.” After you check out our match, make sure you go back to the Live Scoreboard and read the various other match-ups going on.
Thanks to all of you who voted and helped me win the first round in the March Madness Poetry tournament. My new poem for the next round is up now. This time it is translucent vs cement.
Please read & vote for your fav and help us get the word out. We’d like to double the votes from the last round. Voting is only open for about a day and a half.
I signed up to be part of this wonderful crazy-making idea that Ed DeCaria came up with – a March Madness Poetry Tournament, where poets are assigned a word and matched up in head-to-head battles. They have to write a kid appropriate poem. Readers vote, winners move on to the next round. Some of the words are insanely difficult. Some are silly. The poems are great fun to read, many of them are light, funny verse.
The seeding is random and the words range from 1 (easy) to 16 (how will I ever use this in a poem). I was seeded, randomly, at 16. Which meant I was going to draw the tough words. The word I drew was “nonconfrontational” Uh, huh. To use in a poem for kids.
Here’s what went through my mind. Is he crazy? I can’t use this in a poem for kids. I can’t use this in a poem for anyone. If he wants nonconfrontational, I’ll give him nonconfrontational. Well maybe I won’t because he lives in Chicago and I’m in California but boy, if he was here. Gee, if I was a real poet, I would probably feel differently about all this. I might look at it as more of a game, a challenge, maybe it would be fun. Oh man, looking at the discussions from other people it sounds like there are going to be a lot of funny poems. I don’t write funny poems. I write poems that break your heart and hand them back to you with an apology and a roll of Scotch tape. I can’t do this. Why did I sign up for this? Okay, maybe I can write funny. Rhyming couplets would work, right? I Sure, let’s give it a try. Oh man, that didn’t work. Double Dactyl, yes, it’s the perfect word for a Double Dactyl, the only problem is that I’ve never written a Double Dactyl in my life. And they’re supposed to be funny too. I am so not a poet yet. I need to study more. I need to learn all these forms. I shouldn’t have signed up for this. I’m not a poet.
Does any of this self-abuse sound familiar? The things we writers do to ourselves. I actually considered quitting without posting anything. Yes, dumb, I know.
But here’s what finally came to me. I was trying to force myself into a mold that no one told me I had to fit into. I don’t write light and funny verse. I don’t read much light and funny verse. I’m not a light and funny verse kind of writer.
So I decided to do something radical. I decided to lean into my strengths.
And as soon as I let go of all those preconceived ideas of what I was SUPPOSED to write, the poem came together. In ten minutes.
Writing is tough enough. Let’s not make it any harder than it has to be. Lean into your strengths. You might just surprise yourself.
I hope you’ll go read my poem for the poetry match-up. Voting is only open for the next day and a half and you can only vote once. So please read, vote and share.
And of course, I hope you’ll like my poem, At 13 I Walk on Eggshells, enough to vote for it.
These are some of the poetry prompt cards I use with my incarcerated teen poets (though they can and are used with all sorts of creative writing classes.) They can be interchangeable, of course, but for my planning purposes, yellow cards are good prompts for list poems, lavender cards are emotion cards that I use for our "word of the day" sensory warm-ups, white cards are questions and green cards are unfinished sentences. I add to these all the time.
|From Poetry Prompt Cards|
|From Poetry Prompt Cards|
|From Poetry Prompt Cards|
|From Poetry Prompt Cards|
Write After Reading: Writing the Life Poetic has been a weekly online book club with poetry participation. It has alternated between my blog and Laura Salas’s blog.
For a couple of months now Laura and I have worked our way through reading and writing poetry together. The exercises have been both fun and enlightening. It seems the more I struggled against the exercises the more I got out of it once I actually did the work. Having a buddy to read and discuss the book with made it more fun and, of course, made me accountable to actually doing what I said I was going to do.
We’ve reached the end of our journey with this particular book. It feels like the right time. And now that we’re in the midst of summer, many readers have summer activities on their plate. I want to thank those of you who read along with us, whether or not you posted, and those who joined us in sharing our exercise here on the blogs. Poetry really can be a universal conversation.
The book we used, Writing the Life Poetic, by Sage Cohen, is so accessible. The chapters are short and the exercises are full of variety. Even if you didn’t get the chance to read along with us this time, I highly recommend the book.
But wait, there’s more! Sage Cohen has volunteered to answer questions for us. It doesn’t matter if you posted during our reading adventure or not. If you have any questions about poetry, the book (we didn’t cover all the chapters) some of the exercises, etc, please leave your question in a comment and we’ll forward them all to Sage for a final wrap-up on our poetic adventure!
Thank you again, to all who participated and cheered us on. Stay tuned for further adventures in Write After Reading. If you have a book you’d like us to consider for the club, please let us know.
Laura is leading this week’s installment of Write After Reading: Living the Life Poetic, a weekly online book club with poetry participation. It alternates between my blog and Laura Salas’s blog. Last week, right here, we talked about poetic forms and chapter 63.
This week, on Laura’s blog, we’ll be talking about Chapter 71 and lists as triggers
Come on over and join us!
Welcome to another installment of Write After Reading: Writing the Life Poetic, a weekly online book club with poetry participation. It alternates between my blog and Laura’s blog. Last week, over at Laura’s blog, we talked about chapter 58 and writing the Zeitgist. Today I picked chapter 63, Taking Shape, Experimenting with Poetic Forms.
This chapter talks briefly about how the constraints of a form can actually improve your poetry or at least lead you down some interesting paths. Though I haven’t yet devoted the time to mastering some of the longer forms I do agree that having that structure often helps me focus my poetic attention in much the same way that we found when we did the Mad Libs.
Here’s an online source with easy explanations of the forms of verse – Poetry Handbook.
I opted to go for haiku since I’m writing this late at night after a crazy-making day but I hope to come back tomorrow and try some other forms as well.
sleeping dog whimpers
chases squirrel shadows, barks
one week, no flour, sugar
bad habits need undoing
how will I survive?
Laura is leading this week’s installment of Write After Reading: Living the Life Poetic, a weekly online book club with poetry participation. It alternates between my blog and Laura Salas’s blog. Last week, right here, we talked about titles and chapter 48.
Welcome to another installment of Write After Reading: Writing the Life Poetic, a weekly online book club with poetry participation. It alternates between my blog and Laura’s blog. Last week, over at Laura’s blog, we talked about chapter 43 and played with another Mad Lib sort of exercise. Today I picked chapter 48, Writing Poems From Titles.
There’s not a lot to read here because the fun is all in the writing. The chapter talks about how titles for poems can come before the poem is written, after it is written, or changed somewhere in-between. But for this exercise she gives what she calls a book of matches with a list of titles of poems by mostly contemporary poets. The idea is to write a poem based just on the title (hopefully a poem you don’t know) and then go find the original and see how it compares. She gives a list of 33 poems. For those of you who don’t have a copy of the book, I’ll post a few of the titles for you.
But before that, I’d like to talk a bit more about titles for poems and how you perhaps come up with your titles. I almost always title my poems after they are written when I am pretty sure I have reached the point I was trying to make with the poem. Though there have been a few where I got the title and it just spoke to me and I had to write a poem to live up to the title. I’m not sure how I feel about poems where the title is actually the first line in the poem. Quite often it confuses me. I read the title and I set it apart in my mind. Then I read the first line and I’m confused and my brain has to process that method the poet is using and I have to go back and start over. It all happens very fast but sometimes it can be distracting to me. The exception (for me) is usually when it is a verse novel and the author is using the same pattern throughout the book. My brain gets used to it and it seems less distracting.
So what about you? When do you title your poems? Do you use a line from the poem? How do you know when you have the right title for a poem? (For me it’s all about going with my gut.)
I’ll post some of titles for folks now and will be back later to add my poem in the comments.
The Zero at the Bone (Karen Holmberg)
The Partial Explanation (Charles Simic)
Good People (WS Merwin)
What the Angels Left (Marie Howe)
Give the Drummer Some (Christopher Luna)
Key to the Highway (Mark Halliday)
Ladies and Gentlement in Outer Space (Ron Padgett)
The Blue Bowl (Jane Kenyon)
Okay, here’s my poem. I picked the title last night and was really expecting to write a softish poem perhaps based in nature. What came out is something completely different. I have to say that this one surprised me in a way that a poem hadn’t surprised me in a long time.
How to Listen
Put down that stinky cigarette,
the one you promised to stop smoking.
Quit fiddling with the piano
and no, you don’t need another drink.
You never need another drink.
Pretend if you have to
you’re at work,
uniform neatly pressed,
just like all those lies you told me.
Eyes straight ahead.
Must. Not. Move.
Look at me, no, really look at me
in the eyes, those windows to my soul
you tried to crush.
I know I’m angry.
I want you to know it too.
I want you to hear what I’m saying
with my entire body.
I may not get this brave again.
Don’t look down
or away with that
“you just kicked a puppy” expression on your face.
It doesn’t work any more.
Focus on me,
the way you used to focus on me,
before vodka became your lover.
That pause between words
isn’t an invitation for you to interrupt and tell me
how the world is against you.
I don’t care.
You don’t have to listen long.
Just long enough
for me to say goodbye.
© 2011 Susan Taylor Brown.
All rights reserved.
The original poem is How to Listen by Major Jackson and you can read it here:
Laura is leading this week’s installment of Write After Reading: Living the Life Poetic, a weekly online book club with poetry participation. It alternates between my blog and Laura Salas’s blog. Last week, right here, we talked about chapters 30 & 38, which included a really cool Mad Lib exercise.
This week, on Laura’s blog, we’ll be talking about Chapter 43: I’m So Adjective, I Verb Nouns: On Word Choice.
See you over there.
I dare you to read Laura’s poem today and not tear up.
Last week for Write After Reading: Living the Life Poetic, Laura discussed Chapter 27 . Pop on over there if you missed it.
I’m going backwards a step this week, to chapter 26, because I think the lesson in it is important one for me to remember and perhaps for you too. (I have a feeling Laura already has a habit around this idea but I’m working to develop one.)
This chapter is all about small stones. Now that caught my attention right away because I am forever picking up stones. When we removed the lawns from our yard I had a field day collected little tiny no bigger than your thumb pieces of smooth stones. I have a pile of them in the yard I keep adding to.
The other thing that spoke to me in this chapter is that it is all about doing something that I am trying to get better at doing, slowing down and being in the moment so I can notice what is right in front of me. I am really trying to make the effort to do that because every single time I do, poetry and words just spew forth. It’s like they were just hanging around waiting for me to open my eyes.
This very short chapter talks about how another writer,On that website she says, "a small stone helps me pay proper attention to one thing every day. I hope it will help you to do the same.:
I have tried more times than I can remember in the past to keep some kind of regular journal or something to record my daily thoughts and outside of this blog, that doesn’t work for me. But small stones, poetic fragments, perhaps that’s doable.
She suggests trying for three thoughts per day. 1, something in nature. 2, observe yourself in a relationship with someone or something and 3, seek out something you might not otherwise notice because you’re unconsciously filtering it out.
I really like this idea because it fits in with my idea of slowing down and being in the moment while also trying to train myself to observe the ordinary around me. It also goes hand-in-hand with the other habit I am trying to cultivate, ala Beth Kephart, which is to write 5 metaphors a day.
I invite you to share your three poetic fragments for the day in the comments below.
And a note from Laura about next week’s conversation. She’d like you to start thinking about a song whose lyrics really touch you. You”ll want to have one in mind for her post next week.
Okay these are quickies. I want to come back try to add to these fragments but here’s a first pass.
1. something in nature.
Wasps building holey huts under the eaves.
They work as hard as the bees but for much less credit.
2. observe yourself in a relationship with someone or something
Letting paint spill across the page makes me feel like I have just taken a humungous breath of fresh air.
3. seek out something you might not otherwise notice because you’re unconsciously filtering it out.
Dust on the white moldings reminds me beach sand.
This week Laura is hosting Write After Reading: Living the Life Poetic, weekly online book club with poetry participation. It alternates between my blog and Laura’s blog. Last week, we chatted here about line breaks in Chapter 33 so you can back up to see what you’ve missed. Today, over at Laura’s blog, we’re talking about Chapter 27.
And don’t forget, Sage Cohen has offered to answer our questions at the end of our poetic journey so please, leave your questions for her in the comments either here, or with Laura, and we’ll be sure to get them to Sage.
Welcome to another installment of Write After Reading: Living the Life Poetic,a weekly online book club with poetry participation. It alternates between my blog and Laura’s blog. Last week, we chatted about Chapter 24 over at Laura’s blog. Today I want to talk about Chapter 33.
Before I get into my thoughts on this chapter though I have an exciting announcement to make. Sage Cohen, the author of the book Writing the Life Poetic, has volunteered to answer any questions for us when we wind up the series. I’ll need to send them to her in advance so please, send in your questions now, or in the next few weeks. You can either post them as a comment in the blog (here or at Laura’s) or you can email them to me at susan AT susantaylorbrown dot com
Now, on to Chapter 33 and the discussion of line breaks. I was so glad to see this chapter because line breaks is one of the things I most struggle with in my poems. I felt a bit better when she said she thought ten poet laurerates would break a poem in ten different ways. But of course, being a rule follower, I wanted to know the RIGHT way to do it. But I think the message here is there is no right or wrong way, there is only the way of the individual poet based on what they want the reader to feel, to take away, as they read the poem. Some line breaks will be a leisurely stroll and some will feel like you’re on a runaway train.
The line breaks that confuse me most of all are the ones that break mid-idea and leave me hanging. I keep studying the poem to see if I can discover the answer to why it breaks a certain way but usually I can’t. This is part of what makes me feel dumb about poetry because I want to understand that which often can’t be understood but only felt. I like the idea she gives that you want to end the line on the word you want the reader to linger on a bit longer.
I think line breaks will always be hard for me until I learn to trust myself as a poet.
I chose the first exercise she listed. She took the poem Lake and Maple by Jane Hirshfield and wrote it in paragraph form and then suggested that we try putting in the line breaks. I haven’t read that poem before so it is all new to me. I’ll go looking for a copy after I play with my own line breaks with it (in the comments.)
This week Laura is hosting Write After Reading: Living the Life Poetic, weekly online book club with poetry participation. It alternates between my blog and Laura’s blog. Last week, we chatted here about Chapter 11 so you can back up to see what you’ve missed. Today, over at Laura’s blog, we’re talking about Chapter 24.
Hop on over to Laura’s blog and join us in learning about sound diagrams for your poems.
Welcome to chapter 11 of Write After Reading: Living the Life Poetic, weekly online book club with poetry participation. It alternates between my blog and Laura’s blog. Last week, over at Laura’s blog, we’re chatted about Chapter 9. Feel free to hop over there and see what you might have missed.
This chapter is about thinking outside the box when it comes to using sensory descriptions. Instead of thinking what lonely feels like, we try to imagine what it tastes like, sounds like. By using unusual and unexpected sensory definitions we get a richer experience. I loved the idea behind this chapter. It’s something I’ve been doing with students for years but, as often happens with me, I don’t practice it nearly enough myself.
I will say that kids amaze me when I use this sort of writing with them. When I’m doing a residency, one of the first writing exercises we do is to identify the senses and then brainstorm expected words/phrases to go with them. Then I have them them throw out a word and I write it on the board…say "honesty" and then they have to use each of their senses to tell me what home looks like, feels like, tastes like, sounds like and smells like. I will often preface this exercise with a reading from the fabulous Book of Qualities by Ruth Gendler.
I think this chapter reminded me of what I am trying to accomplish by doing this Write After Reading project – actually WRITING the exercises. Exercises are good for us. Physical ones and written ones. I don’t do them enough. I think what happens to me after reading an exercise such as this is that there’s a soundtrack in my background that says, "Yes, that’s a great idea. Wow, look at those examples. Those people are so creative. If I do these exercises I will be more creative too. Except I hear the dog asking to go outside and it’s almost time to go to the dentist. And I’m not really awake yet…." And so I close the book and forget about it. I’d like to be kinder to myself and take a little time each week to play with some no pressure exercises like the ones in this chapter.
I am off to the dentist to fix a lost crown but when I come back, I think I’ll work on the following exercise:
Who does red love?
What kind of shoes does anxiety wear?
What does jealousy eat for breakfast?
Where does fear live?
What did blue borrow and why?
How does pink sing?
What does truth taste like?
The idea is to answer the questions very fast….don’t over-think them.
This week Laura is hosting Write After Reading: Living the Life Poetic, weekly online book club with poetry participation. It alternates between my blog and Laura’s blog. Last week, we chatted here about Chapter 7 so you can back up to see what you’ve missed. Today, over at Laura’s blog, we’re talking about Chapter 9. And if you’re reading and writing along with us, next week I’ll be doing chapter 11, here..
Please hop over to Laura’s blog and join in the fun.