It’s National Poetry Month and many schools are dusting off anthologies of poetry and kicking back with a “break from writing” to do some poetry. With so many demands placed upon schools and teachers and a sense of urgency to demonstrate student growth in reading and writing, these will be the lucky kids. In far too many schools, the curricula overlooks poetry in terms of writing. The Common Core mentions it only in the reading standards. Ex.”Determine a theme of a story, drama, or poem from details in the text…” It is not included in the 3 major modes of writing (Narrative, Informative/Explanatory, and Argument).
Some classrooms invite poetry into their classroom beyond the border of the April calendar. There are numerous Poetry Friday resources and initiatives that teachers use and follow. Here are a few you could check out..
But the point of my blog this week isn’t just to encourage teachers to bring more poetry into their classrooms and lives – it’s to CREATE more poetry in their classrooms and lives. On my March 26th Blog “Teacher of Writing or Writing Teacher” I encouraged teachers to try out the writing that they are assigning to their students and to write WITH their students. I think poetry is often one mode of writing that teachers are even more reluctant to ‘try out’ with their students than most others.
I’m not going to spend any time on this blog trying to convince you WHY poetry is a fantastic writing form that will deepen students understanding of our language, word choice, grammar, literary language, figurative language, sentence structure, punctuation, format, layout, etc in a playful and creative format (well, maybe I just did a little). What I would like to focus on, is encouraging you to TRY IT OUT yourself.
Most people I know (students and teachers alike) assert, “I’m not very good at poetry.” or “I’m not a poet.” In fact, many worry that any attempt they make will be seen as being a pretentious phony. Some will say, “I’m not sure what I’m doing.” or “I’m not really sure this is poetry.” But emulating what you see and hear as poetry is exactly how we learned to write narratives and informational and persuasive types of writing. We were exposed to many, many stories and articles and essays before we attempted to try our hand at them. Why don’t we give ourselves the same courtesy when it comes to poetry? If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck…sure it’s a poem!
Following the assignments you give to your students is a great place to start. Just jump in and play around. They will respect your courage more than they will critique your couplets! You will have a new found appreciation for the needs of your students when you are equally engaged.
Explore poetry outside of your classroom walls. Play with poetry in your journal or create a private poetry notebook. Collect poems, lines or ideas inspired from other poets. Experiment with words and phrases without the pressure of writing a complete poem. Here are some other artistic ways to discover and create poetry that could inspire you to claim your rightful title of poet!
Book Spine Poetry
A fun poetic expression I’ve seen recently are posts online of Book Spine Poetry. With this method you layout books with the titles on the spines arranged like lines of a poem. You play around with titles and arrangements until the format represents the idea you want to convey.
Poets.org describes this as the literary equivalent of a collage. These poets take existing text and refashion them into new poetry. You select a passage (not necessarily poetry) and highlight or cut out words, phrases, or lines that appeal to you. Then you rearrange the pieces into a satisfying format that creates an entirely new message. Try this with the newspaper, or a magazine or even a professional text! Feel the creativity and freedom that can come when you don’t feel responsible for conjuring the just-right words! ReadWriteThink.org even has an online generator to help with this creative format!
How about Twihaiku? Try out a poem in 140 characters or less on Twitter! Some call it Micropoetry. You can check out some up and coming micropoets here! If you’ve only invested 140 characters into a poem and you don’t like it, you can delete and recreate without much remorse!
These have been around for years. If you haven’t played with one, you should give it a try. They have various themes and versions, but all have the same basic idea. Choose words and arrange them until they represent an idea or concept you want to voice. They aren’t meant to be permanent, so there is no pressure to create an ‘archivally brilliant’ poem!
So, as you can see, YOU CAN BE A POET! You aren’t being a phony if you use what you know to create something new. It doesn’t mean it will appeal to everyone or that there is never room for revision and tweaking, but the fear of not being good enough, of being a Phoet, should be lifted from your shoulders. Reframe what it means to be a poet and you could free yourself up to discover a creative side you never knew existed!
What’s on My Book Radar?
It is hard to believe that this brilliant book is now 40 years old! If you still aren’t convinced that poetry is an important form of writing, just look at how beloved and enduring this author’s writing has been to generations of children, teachers and parents. You won’t see any of Shel Silverstein’s works listed in Appendix B of the Common Core, but you won’t find many schools in this country that don’t have at least one copy of his anthologies of poetry. This week I want to flip through the book, land on a poem, and imagine reading it for the very first time. Maybe I can recreate some of the joy I discovered when I first giggled through the lines of this masterpiece.Happy Reading