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1. Monday Poetry Stretch - Sedoka

Yes, I know it's Tuesday. We've had family in town since Friday and I forgot to schedule this, so I am a day late.

Continuing on the theme of Japanese poetic forms, the sedoka is an unrhymed poem made up of a pair of katauta. A katuata is a three-line poem with the syllable count of 5 / 7 / 7. Generally a sedoka addresses the same subject from different perspectives.

You can read more about the sedoka at Encyclopedia Brittanica.

I hope you'll join me this week in writing a sedoka (or two). Please share a link to your poem or the poem itself in the comments.

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2. Monday Poetry Stretch - Dodoitsu

Dodoitsu is a Japanese poetic form. Similar to other Japanese forms, it does not rhyme and is not focused on meter, but rather on syllables. 

Dodoitsu is a 4-line poem with a syllable count of 7 / 7 / 7 / 5. Generally the subject of these poems is love or work. They also often contain a bit of humor.  

You can read more about this form and see a few examples at Poetic Asides.

I hope you'll join me this week in writing a dodoitsu (or two). Please share a link to your poem or the poem itself in the comments.

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3. Poetry Friday - Roma Aeterna

We left last Friday to visit family in NY. Our trip up should have taken just over 5 hours by plane, but it turned into a 15+ hour odyssey. We did finally make it and had a wonderful 6 days. On our last day in Rochester, we made a short visit to Mount Hope Cemetery. I visited once in high school (many moons ago) and knew the graves of Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony were there. However, on this visit I learned that someone appropriate to the Poetry Friday set was here as well.
 
In honor of Adelaide Crapsey, here is a cinquain of hers.

Roma Aeterna

The sun
Is warm to-day,
O Romulus, and on
Thine olden Palatine the birds
Still sing.


I do hope you'll take some time to check out all the wonderful poetic things being shared and collected today by Kimberley on Google+. Happy poetry Friday friends!

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4. Monday Poetry Stretch - Ae freslighe

Ae freslighe (ay fresh lee) is an Irish poetic form. Each stanza is a quatrain with lines of seven syllables. The rhyme scheme is a b a b. In forming rhymes, the end rhyme in lines one and three is three syllables, while the end rhyme in lines two and four is two syllables. Finally, Irish poetry is cyclic, so the poem should end with the first word or entire first line.

Here's what the poem form looks like.

x x x x (x x a)
x x x x x (x b)
x x x x (x x a)
x x x x x (x b)

You can read more about this form at The Poets Garret and Creative Bloomings.

I hope you'll join me this week in writing an Ae freslighe (or two). Please share a link to your poem or the poem itself in the comments.

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5. Poetry Seven Write "in the style of" - e.e. cummings

This month the poetry seven were tasked with writing poems "in the style of." We had quite a bit of discussion about what this meant before we ever got off the ground. When we settled on e.e. cummings I was terrified, and that's putting it mildly. While I may eschew punctuation and capitalization in my poems, I don't usually play with them in the manner of cummings.

Okay, confession time. I have always disliked the poetry of e.e. cummings. There, I said it. His poems have always made me feel dumb. I just don't get them, and (I say this rather immodestly, but I'm a pretty smart cookie), when I don't get the gist, I get frustrated. Perhaps I never read cummings widely enough, but after struggling with a few of his poems, I gave up, never to return to him again.

Enter this month's writing project. As the poet of the style of choice, I jumped into reading cummings again. I'll admit I still don't get most of his stuff, but I did find some pretty amazing pieces. I floundered for quite a while with different topics, but after the shootings in Charleston I knew I needed to write about it. I try not to write when I'm emotional, as the poems tend to come from a dark place. My first drafts were very dark and darn depressing. They needed something more, but I didn't know what that was. On the Sunday following the shootings, the homily focused on embracing hope and rejecting despair. In thinking about Father Jim's words, I realized exactly what my poem was missing, and so my single poem became a pair.

hatred and hope - a pair of poems in the style of e.e. cummings
(written in the wake of the Emanuel AME shootings)

hatred

is.
one
cold heart

looking
kindness
open arms--
genuine love

(in the eyes)

and
firing
a
gun

againandagainandagain

hope

is.
hearts

battered
broken
againandagainandagain

un
yielding
to despair

forgiving
fighting
(believing-believing-believing)

in their
phoenix
rising

Poems ©Tricia Stohr-Hunt, 2015. All rights reserved.


One of our esteemed members (Andi!) suggested we record our poems this time around. I'm not sure I've captured the emotions I was experiencing as I wrote these, but I'll leave that for you to decide. 

Now that you've read and heard my poems, here is the e.e. cummings' poem I chose to emulate. 

silence

.is
a
looking

bird:the

turn
ing;edge,of
life

(inquiry before snow


To date, this has been the most difficult challenge for me. I am most grateful to the group this month for leading me to cummings as I've never known him. You can read and listen to the fabulous "in the style of" poems written by my Poetry Seven compatriots at the links below. 

I do hope you'll take some time to check out all the wonderful poetic things being shared and collected today by Katie at The Logonauts. Happy poetry Friday friends! 

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6. Jumping Into Form - Interview with Bob Raczka

National Poetry Month is long over, but I believe in poetry EVERY day and still have forms and interviews to share. So without further ado, another wonderful poet weighs in on form.

* * * * *


Today I'm sharing the thoughts of Bob Raczka, author of numerous books about art and art history, the seasons, as well as poetry. Recent poetry titles include Presidential Misadventures: Poems That Poke Fun at the Man in Charge (2015), Santa Clauses: Short Poems From the North Pole (2014), Lemonade: and Other Poems Squeezed from a Single Word (2011), and Guyku: A Year of Haiku for Boys (2010). I'm looking forward to a new book coming out in 2016 entitled Wet Cement: A Mix of Concrete Poems.
 
How do you begin a poem? Or, how does a poem begin for you — with an idea, a form, an image, or something else?
Bob: I usually (but not always) start with the form. And it helps to have a theme in mind. For example, my book Santa Clauses consists of 25 haiku “written” by Santa. Haiku are about nature, so when I started writing, I thought about things in nature that are unique to the North Pole, and that might make an impression on Santa. Pretty soon, I was writing poems about the northern lights, reindeer and snow hares.


How do you choose the form of your poems?
Bob: Most of the time I’m inspired by other poems. For example, I just finished a manuscript of 20 poems that I’m calling “skinny sonnets”. The form is based on a 14-word sonnet written by a poet named Frank Sidgwick in 1921. His abbreviated sonnet is called The Aeronaut to His Lady, and once I read it, I knew I had to try one for myself. The same thing happened with my book Lemonade, which was inspired by an anagram-like poem called rain by a poet named Andrew Russ.


Are there any forms you haven't tried but would like to? Why or why not?
Bob: There are many forms I haven’t tried. I tend to gravitate toward shorter forms like haiku, cinquains, clerihews and limericks. I find them easier to wrap my head around. Call me a minimalist. I also don’t have a lot of time to write poetry with my day job in advertising, so the shorter forms work well with my schedule. That’s not to say that short forms are easy, or that I don’t rewrite my short poems many, many times. I do love the fact that you can say so much, and be so clever, with so few words.


What tools (rhyming dictionary, book of forms, etc.) do you use in writing poetry (if any)?  
Bob: I love my rhyming dictionary. It’s paperback and the edges are well-worn from all of my quick-flipping back and forth. I also have quite a collection of poetry books for inspiration, mostly adult poets. Some are anthologies, others are by individual poets. One book that I return to again and again is Poem-Making: Ways to Begin Writing Poetry by Myra Cohn Livingston.


What would you like students or children to know about poetry?
Bob: First, poetry is about playing with words. So if you like playing with words, or seeing how other people play with words, chances are you’ll like reading and writing poetry. Second, don’t expect to like—or even understand—every poem you read. Poems are like books, and poets are like authors: you’ll like some more than you like others. Third, reading poems is a great way to slow down and appreciate the little things in life. I like to read a handful of nature poems before I go to bed. It makes me feel good and helps relieve any stress I may be feeling.


Finally, one of your esteemed colleagues suggested I ask for a poem in a foreign verse form. Would you be willing to share a poem for this project?
Bob: 

I reach for firefly’s
flicker, but all I catch is
a handful of dark.

Poem ©Bob Raczka, 2015. All rights reserved.


A million thanks to Bob for participating in my Jumping Into Form interview and for waiting ever so patiently for it to post.

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7. Monday Poetry Stretch - Cinquain

My apologies to my fellow writers who have come around looking for stretches. I just spent two amazing weeks with a group of teachers and thought of little beyond math, math, and more math.

Poetry relies on a great deal of math, from rhyme scheme (patterns) to counting syllables to forms that are based on mathematical sequences (Fibonacci numbers). Today I've selected a form that generally relies on syllable counting.

*****
Poets.org defines the cinquain in this fashion.

The cinquain, also known as a quintain or quintet, is a poem or stanza composed of five lines. Examples of cinquains can be found in many European languages, and the origin of the form dates back to medieval French poetry. 
The most common cinquains in English follow a rhyme scheme of ababb, abaab or abccb. 
I'll admit that the first part of this definition was unfamiliar to me. It was only this second part that I recognized.
Adelaide Crapsey, an early twentieth-century poet, used a form of 22 syllables distributed among the five lines in a 2, 4, 6, 8, and 2 pattern, respectively. Her poems share a similarity with the Japanese tanka, another five-line form, in their focus on imagery and the natural world.
This is the form that is taught in schools alongside haiku and diamante, though I'm not fond of the didactic approach generally taken, which consists of listing words related to a topic (adjectives, action verbs, etc.) .

If you are looking for some guidance, Kenn Nesbitt has a nice page on how to write a cinquain.

For a bit of inspiration, here's one of my favorite poems by Adelaide Crapsey.

Niagara, Seen on a Night in November

How frail
Above the bulk
Of crashing water hangs
Autumnal, evanescent, wan,
The moon.


I hope you'll join me this week in writing a cinquain (or two). Please share a link to your poem or the poem itself in the comments.

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8. Poetry Friday - Monotone

I've been reading Sandburg the last few weeks, so today I'm sharing a poem I can't seem to get out of my mind.

Monotone
by Carl Sandburg

The monotone of the rain is beautiful,
And the sudden rise and slow relapse
Of the long multitudinous rain.

The sun on the hills is beautiful,
Or a captured sunset sea-flung,
Bannered with fire and gold.

A face I know is beautiful—
With fire and gold of sky and sea,
And the peace of long warm rain.


I do hope you'll take some time to check out all the wonderful poetic things being shared and collected today by Carol at Carol's Corner. Happy poetry Friday friends! 

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9. Monday Poetry Stretch - Rondel

The rondel is a French verse form. It consists of 13 lines in 3 stanzas and contains two refrains (repeated lines). The rhyme scheme is below. The uppercase letters represent the refrains.

A B b a
a b A B
a b b a A

Rondels are usually written in lines of 8 syllables.

The Poetry Foundation defines it a bit differently. Here is their definition.

Rondel (roundel)
A poetic form of 11 to 14 lines consisting of two rhymes and the repetition of the first two lines in the middle of the poem and at its end. Algernon Charles Swinburne’s poem entitled The Roundel is 11 lines in two stanzas.

Whichever form you use, I hope you will join me this week in writing a rondel. Please share a link to your poem or the poem itself in the comments.

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10. Poetry Friday - The Broad Bean Sermon

Today I'm thinking of gardens and summer and sharing a poem I came across while reading The Making of a Poem: A Norton Anthology of Poetic Forms by Mark Strand and Eavan Boland. This poem was in the chapter on the pastoral and I can't seem to get it out of my mind. That's always a good indication that I've come across a poem I need to share.

The Broad Bean Sermon
by Les Murray

Beanstalks, in any breeze, are a slack church parade
without belief, saying trespass against us in unison,
recruits in mint Air Force dacron, with unbuttoned leaves.

Upright with water like men, square in stem-section
they grow to great lengths, drink rain, keel over all ways,
kink down and grow up afresh, with proffered new greenstuff.

Above the cat-and-mouse floor of a thin bean forest
snails hang rapt in their food, ants hurry through Escher's three worlds,
spiders tense and sag like little black flags in their cordage.


I do hope you'll take some time to check out all the wonderful poetic things being shared and collected today by Jama Rattigan at Jama's Alphabet Soup.. Happy poetry Friday friends! 

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11. Monday Poetry Stretch - Sapphic Stanza

The Sapphic stanza is composed of 4 lines, the first three lines consisting of 11 syllables, the last line of 5 syllables. The long lines are called hendecasyllabics, while the short line is called adonic. In their writing, the Greeks focused on long and short vowel sounds, today we focus on meter. Here is what the lines look like.

1 - two trochees, a dactyl, two trochees
2 - two trochees, a dactyl, two trochees
3 - two trochees, a dactyl, two trochees
4 - one dactyl, one trochee

What does this mean? 

A trochee has two beats in the pattern stressed/unstressed, such as in words like happy, double, and planet. It is noted as / u.

A dactyl has three beats in the pattern stressed/unstressed/unstressed, such as in words like carefully, tenderly, and buffalo. It is note as / u u.

So using this notation, here's what a Sapphic stanza looks like metrically.

1 - / u / u / u  u / u / u
2 - / u / u / u  u / u / u
3 - / u / u / u  u / u / u
4 - / u u / u 

Originally, these stanzas were not rhymed, but in the Middle Ages they sometimes acquired the rhyme scheme abab. 

Phew! That's a lot to remember. For more information, Poetry Magnum Opus has a terrific overview of the form and its changes through time. You can read some examples and learn more about the form in the the piece On Form: Rachel Wetzsteon.

Here's an example by the poet Sara Teasdale.

The Lamp 
If I can bear your love like a lamp before me,
When I go down the long steep Road of Darkness,
I shall not fear the everlasting shadows,
Nor cry in terror.

If I can find out God, then I shall find Him,
If none can find Him, then I shall sleep soundly,
Knowing how well on earth your love sufficed me,
A lamp in darkness.


I hope you'll join me this week in writing a rhymed or unrhymed Sapphic stanza or two. Please share a link to your poem or the poem itself in the comments.

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12. Poetry Seven Share Odes

During the month of May the Poetry Seven spent their time working on odes. After much discussion of form, we decided that a bit of humor was in order. Beyond that, there were no rules, no subjects, and no limits.

This is where I'll admit I had a hard time with this. I was the kid in school who hated free writing. I stared at the page wondering what to write about. However, if I was given a topic, writing was easy. Form does that for me. When I have constraints, I find getting underway a bit easier. So for me, free verse is tough. And no theme meant I found myself in the same space I so often inhabited in high school English class, staring at the blank page wondering what the heck I was doing.

Inspiration eventually came from the strangest of places ... a visit to a port-a-potty. I'll let the poem tell the rest of the story.

Ode to Where My Backside's Been

To all the toilets that have been
privy to another side of me
from the port-a-potties I have
hovered over
     one hand holding my nose
     while the other finds purchase on the wall
to the heads on rolling ships
to the Amtrak bowls spouting blue water
and the tightly confined closets at 10,000 feet

To the padded seat my mother thought
was a good idea … it wasn’t
     a great whoosh of air escaped when you sat on it
     and in the heat of summer you stuck to it
to the myriad of public toilets I’ve run from
only to realize when traveling abroad
just how good we pampered Americans have it

From the loosely constructed,
half-walled stalls placed over a trough
running the length of the “Ladies” room at the
base of the Potala Palace
     an unavoidable stop before climbing all those steps
to the holes in the floor with footprints on either side
to the basins with no seats at all

I salute you all for your service
but you pale in comparison to
the water closet at Narita airport
whereupon entering the stall
     quiet music played
     water trickled into the bowl
and the heated seat … yes, I sat on it!
offered comfort and relief after a 15 hour flight

I still dream of that toilet in Tokyo
would even brave another trans-Pacific trip
to rest my weary behind
and perhaps, take a selfie
to begin a photographic ode
to the commode

Poem ©Tricia Stohr-Hunt, 2015. All rights reserved.

You can read the fabulous poems written by my Poetry Seven compatriots at the links below. 

I do hope you'll take some time to check out all the wonderful poetic things being shared and collected today by Buffy Silverman at Buffy's Blog. Happy poetry Friday friends! 

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13. Monday Poetry Stretch - Rhupunt

I am still reading and pondering the forms in Robin Skelton's The Shapes of Our Singing: A Comprehensive Guide to Verse Forms and Metres from Around the World. The Rhupunt is a Welsh verse form. Lines are 4 syllables long, with the last line rhyming with the last line of the following stanza. Stanzas may be 3, 4, or 5 lines long. Here is the pattern for these versions.

3-line


x x x A
x x x A
x x x B

x x x C
x x x C
x x x B

4-line
x x x A
x x x A
x x x A
x x x B

x x x C
x x x C
x x x C
x x x B

5-line
x x x A
x x x A
x x x A
x x x A
x x x B

x x x A
x x x A
x x x A
x x x A
x x x B

Since the lines in each stanza are generally thought to be portions of a long line, they are sometimes presented as a couplet with lines of 12 to 20 syllables. Written this way the rhupunt would look like this:
x x x A x x x A x x x A x x x B
x x x C x x x C x x x C x x x B

You can read more about the rhupunt at The Poets Garret.

I hope you'll join me this week in writing a poem in the form rhupunt. Please share a link to your poem or the poem itself in the comments.

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14. Poetry Friday - Lures

Hello friends! I've been absent with the start of summer school and wrapping up the academic year here. It's good to be back. Be sure to visit on Monday when I'll be back with some new poetry stretches.

Today I'm sharing a poem that reminds me of summer growing up, home, and old friends.

Lures
by Adam Vines

For Scott Harris

Last summer’s fishing failures dangled from trees:
a Rapala and Jitterbug a stand
of privet paid for, half-ounce jigs with rubber skirts
and jelly worms with wide-gap hooks on ten-pound test
we tithed with overzealous casts at bass.
Then off we’d go (our stringers bare) to find
a yard to cut, a truck to wash, so we could fill
the tackle box we shared again. Today
is 12/12/12, the Mayan end, and I,
a country boy in Brooklyn for the week,
will hail a cab for the first time and think
of cows unnerved by fish we missed
and shouts of “shit” that followed, and dawns to dusks
and always back with you, my childhood friend.

Read the poem in its entirety.


I do hope you'll take some time to check out all the wonderful poetic things being shared and collected today by Margaret at Reflections on the Teche. Happy poetry Friday friends!

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15. Monday Poetry Stretch - Abandoned Barn

On a drive in a rural county this week I saw several abandoned buildings. Those sights got me thinking about this week's writing prompt. I don't often use photos for stretches, largely because Laura has been doing this for years so fabulously with her 15 Words or Less prompt.

However, I couldn't get those images out of my mind, so this week I offer a photo as a prompt. I won't hold you to a word count or form, so feel free to explore.

If you are interested in photos to inspire your poetry, check out the book Picture Yourself Writing Poetry: Using Photos to Inspire Writing by Laura Purdie Salas.

I hope you'll join me this week in writing a poem for this photo. Please share a link to your poem or the poem itself in the comments.

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16. Monday Poetry Stretch - Chueh-chu

Forgive me for being a bit late today. I normally write these posts on the weekend, but this one was filled with graduation activities. So, after a day of meetings, my 21st year at the university comes to a close and I finally have some time to call my own ... until summer school starts next week. Well, enough about me, let's get on with this week's stretch!

I am still reading and pondering the forms in Robin Skelton's The Shapes of Our Singing: A Comprehensive Guide to Verse Forms and Metres from Around the WorldHere is the poem Skelton wrote for this form and his explanation of the Chueh-chu.

Full moon:
     a white light
 carves shade:
     the warm night,
dream tamed,
     fears the dawn's
hard noise,
     the sun's bright

trees green
     not pearled gray,
walls grey
     not bleached white,
mind trapped
     as time's dream
feels time
     and takes flight.

The name Chueh-chu means, literally, "sonnet cut short." ... It consists of eight lines with the rhyme scheme A A B A   C A D A or the rhyme scheme A B C B   D B E B. A further variation is A A B A   A A C A.    
This example is in the Wu-yen-shih metre, which consists of five monosyllable lines with a caesura after the second syllable. Each syllable is a complete word. 

I hope you'll join me this week in writing a poem in the form Chueh-chu. Please share a link to your poem or the poem itself in the comments.

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17. Poetry Friday - IF ...

Graduation weekend is upon us at the University of Richmond. I always find this a bittersweet time.  While I am happy to have successfully navigated another academic year, I am saddened to say goodbye to the many students I have forged bonds with in their time here. 

In the spirit of commencement, new beginnings, and endless possibilities, I am sharing this poem and dedicating to all the students graduating this weekend, especially those in my corner of the world.

If—
by Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you   
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,   
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;   
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:



I do hope you'll take some time to check out all the wonderful poetic things being shared and collected today by Michelle at Today's Little Ditty. Happy poetry Friday friends!

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18. Monday Poetry Stretch - Burns Stanza

When I interviewed J. Patrick Lewis last month (read it here) he said in response to a question on forms he wanted to try, "I’m endlessly working my way through Robin Skelton’s indispensable The Shapes of Our Singing: A Comprehensive Guide to Verse Forms and Metres from Around the World. For any poet eager to experiment, there is a surprise on every page." That was endorsement enough for me, so I ran out and bought a copy. I am still reading my way through it, but I thought this was as good a time as any to try out something new.

Here's what Skelton says about the Burns Stanza.
The Burns Stanza is so called because Robert Burns make brilliant use of it and it was through his work that it became familiar. It is also called Standard Habbie, the Scots stanza and the six-line stave. Each stanza has six lines rhyming A A A B A B. The A lines are usually of eight or nine syllables and the B lines of four or five. 
To a Mouse by Robert Burns is a great example of this.

I hope you'll join me this week in writing a poem that uses the Burns Stanza. Please share a link to your poem or the poem itself in the comments.

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19. NPM Project: Jumping Into Form - Concrete Poems

What is a concrete poem? On his web site John Grandits says that "Concrete poems are poems that use fonts, and shape, and texture, and color, and sometimes motion."

Shadow Poetry distinguishes among concrete, shape and visual poetry in this way.
Shape and Concrete Poetry go hand-in-hand; however, Concrete or Visual Poetry don’t have to take on the particular shape of the poem’s subject, but rather the wording in the poem can enhance the effect of the words.
There are many terrific examples of concrete poetry in books for kids. I would like to share a few here. Keep in mind that concrete poetry is about the marriage of words and form. Therefore, you need to SEE them to truly appreciate them. That means this post will have lots of links to sites where you can see the art in these poems.
Poetry Basics: Concrete Poetry (2009), written by Valerie Bodden, is an analysis of the concrete poetry form, beginning with its origins and history while providing a range of examples through the present day. Here are some of the things Bodden says about this form.
The goal of the type of poetry known as concrete is to have the shape or appearance of a poem reflect what the words express (p.3).

While most traditional poems are meant to be read, concrete poems are meant to be seen. Looking at a concrete poem can be almost like looking at a painting. In fact, if you try to read a concrete poem out loud, much of its meaning may be lost (p.12).
The book ends with a section entitled "Think Like a Poet," which provides steps and encouragement for readers to write their own concrete poems. Also included are a list of books for further reading, a glossary, and bibliography.
A Poke in the I: A Collection of Concrete Poems (2005), selected by Paul Janeczko and illustrated by Chris Raschka, includes a wide range of poems that are cleverly shaped and written. Eskimo Pie and Popsicle are both poems in the shape of ice cream. Swan and Shadow looks exactly like its title and is a lovely piece of work. You can view an inside spread from the book and download an activity page from the Candlewick web site. You can also get a brief preview from Google Books. Notice that the table of contents is in the form of a table!
 
A Curious Collection of Cats (2009) and its follow-up, A Dazzling Display of Dogs (2011), both written by Betsy Franco and illustrated by Michael Wertz, are collections that explore the peculiarities and absurdities of cats and dogs in wildly energetic ways. First, just look at those covers! If the use of animals in forming the letters of the titles doesn't immediately suck you in, then hopefully a few of these interior shots will. Michael Wertz has generously posted images from the books on his web site. Take a look at Kids page to view them.
Two books written by Joan Bransfield Graham, Splish Splash (2001) illustrated by Steve Scott, and Flicker Flash (2003) illustrated by Nancy Davis, are collections of concrete poems about the physical world. SPLISH SPLASH is a collection of 21 poems about water in a myriad of forms, including crocodile tears, ice cube, popsicle, snow, hail, dew and more. FLICKER FLASH is a collection of 23 poems that explores natural and man-made light sources, including the sun, birthday candles, an incubator bulb, lightning, a firefly, and more. At Google Books you can see examples from both Splish Splash and Flicker Flash.

Here are two examples from Flicker Flash. Keep in mind that these are shape poems, so they may not reproduce particularly well here.
Flashlight

F
L
A
S
H
LIGHT
click
one flick
I am the SUN,
I chase the shadows
one by one, growing scary,
jagged, tall - with brilliant beams
I ' L L    M E L T    t h e m    A L L ! 


 Sun
"From
93,000,000
miles away I bring
you this dynamite, ring-
a-ding day. I'll shout in
your window and bounce
near your head to solar
power you out of
your bed."
Poems ©Joan Bransfield Graham. All rights reserved.
Doodle Dandies, (2007) written by J. Patrick Lewis and illustrated by Lisa Desimini, uses wordplay and surprising "movement" to make the topics come alive. The 19 poems in this book cover a variety of subjects, including giraffe, weeping willow, skyscraper, baseball, basketball, the oyster family, and more. Synchronized Swim Team uses the legs of upside-down swimmers to make its point, while Creep and Slither appears in the shape of a snake, until midpoint when the bulging word bull frog announces what's been eaten. You can view some poems/images from the book at Lisa Desimini's web site.
Meow Ruff: A Story in Concrete Poetry, written by Joyce Sidman and illustrated by Michelle Berg, is the story of a dog and cat trapped under a picnic table in a rainstorm. Since much of the verse forms the images on the page, readers will enjoy searching for the buried verses while reading the story. You can find a reader's guide at Joyce Sidman's site for Meow Ruff.
Lemonade: and Other Poems Squeezed from a Single Word (2011), by Bob Raczka and illustrated by Nancy Doniger, might not be considered concrete poetry by some, but to really see the genius of what he's done you must LOOK closely! As the jacket flap says, "Play with your words! Part anagram, part rebus, part riddle—this brand new poetic form turns word puzzles into poetry. Using only the letters from a single word, each of the poems in this collection capture a scence from daily life and present a puzzle to solve." Check out the Macmillan Books' photostream to view a number of images from the book.
 
Technically, It's Not My Fault (2004) and Blue Lipstick (2007), both written and designed by John Grandits, are two collections designed for older readers. The first book is written from the point of view of a young boy named Robert. The poems reveal Robert's concerns with all things adolescent. He is at turns smart then immature. Poems topics include his older sister, the school bus (dubbed TyrannosaurBus Rex), ordering pizza for dinner, mowing the lawn and more. The second book is written from the point of view of Robert's older sister, Jessie. Her concerns are those of a typical teen, but Jessie is anything but typical. She is funny, sarcastic, and totally her own person. Poem topics include a bad hair day, a pep rally, volleyball practice, Advanced English, her mother's birthday and more. Both books use graphic design in unusual and surprising ways. You can see a few of the poems from Technically and Lipstick on Grandits' web site. You can see a few more images using Google Book Preview for both Technically AND Lipstick

Concrete poems are fun to write and challenge children to think in different ways about the objects and events they see in their world. For additional ideas on writing concrete poetry, here are some resources you may find useful.
Before you go, here's one more piece that may interest you. Take a look at this Getty Museum video on How to Make a Visual Poem.
That's it for today. Join me back here tomorrow for an interview with Kristine O'Connell George.

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20. Monday Poetry Stretch - Terza Rima

I read and wrote a lot of poetry this weekend and it seems I have iambic pentameter on the brain. I thought we should try a form that uses this meter, so this week I've chosen Terza rima. The Teachers and Writers Handbook of Poetic Forms (2000), edited by Ron Padgett, defines terza rima in this fashion.
Terza rima is a tumbling, interlocking rhyme scheme that was invented by the thirteenth-century Italian poet Dante for the creation of his long poem, The Divine Comedy.

Terza rima (an Italian phrase meaning "third rhyme") consists of a series of three-line stanzas (tercets) with the rhyme scheme aba bcb cdc ded and so on. It can go on as long as the poet wishes. At the end of the poem an extra line is often added to complete the structure: yzy z.
You can read more on this form at Poets.org. Here is a poem written in terza rima by Robert Frost.
Acquainted with the Night

I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain—and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.

I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed by the watchman on his beat
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.

I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
When far away an interrupted cry
Came over houses from another street,

But not to call me back or say good-bye;
And further still at an unearthly height,
A luminary clock against the sky

Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.
I have been one acquainted with the night.
You can read another example in Percy Bysshe Shelley's poem, Ode to the West Wind.

I hope you'll join me this week in writing terza rima. Please share a link to your poem or the poem itself in the comments.

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21. NPM Project: Jumping Into Form - Interview with Kristine O'Connell George

In preparation for sharing forms this month, I wrote to a number of poets and asked if they would respond to a short list of questions on poetry, writing, and form. I'm thrilled every time one responds positively and find they have all been extremely generous with their time.

Today I'm sharing the thoughts of Kristine O'Connell George, author of numerous books of poetry for children including Emma Dilemma: Big Sister Poems (2011), Fold Me a Poem (2005), Hummingbird Nest: A Journal of Poems (2004), Swimming Upstream: Middle School Poems (2002), Little Dog and Duncan (2002), Toasting Marshmallows: Camping Poems (2001), Little Dog Poems (1999), and Old Elm Speaks: Tree Poems (1998). Her first book of poetry, The Great Frog Race and Other Poems (1997), was awarded the Lee Bennett Hopkins Promising Poet Award from the International Reading Association.
 
How does a poem begin for you — with an idea, a form, an image, or something else? 
Kristine: All of the above. Poems—and fledgling ideas—flit into my mental inbox in many different ways. Although it’s sometimes difficult to pinpoint why or how a particular idea will snag my attention, it’s most often because I have a personal connection with the topic. Perhaps it’s something I’ve seen, heard, experienced, or even dreamed.

Many of my poems (and rhymed picture books) were sparked by observation: The crows hassling a young hawk in our cedrus deodora tree; wind rustling aspen leaves; a puppy curling up in a splash of sunlight. Book! (Clarion Books) was the result of spending time with a toddler who was beyond delighted when she suddenly realized she could ‘operate’ the pages of a board book all by herself. The poems in Little Dog and Duncan (Clarion Books) were based on my observations of two rascally dogs while serving as hostess of doggie sleepovers.

While working on this interview, I decided to see to take a walk to see how many ‘poem ideas’ I could discover. Here’s a photo of one of them:
What’s interesting to me are not only the paw prints of a long-gone dog in old, cracked concrete, but also the position of the prints. I imagine a child—seeing that tempting swatch of wet cement—held the dog’s two front feet in one hand and pressed down firmly.

Sound also inspires poems: “Owl” in Old Elm Speaks: Tree Poems (Clarion Books) was the result of hearing an owl calling late at night from our native oak tree. At 2 a.m.—with the lines of the poem were still circling in my head—I got up and wrote a draft. Sound also inspired “River Messages” and “Chipmunk” from Toasting Marshmallows: Camping Poems. In both cases I tried to choose language that echoed the sound of a mountain river and a chipmunk’s chatter.

The poems in both Swimming Upstream: Middle School Poems (Clarion Books) and Emma Dilemma: Big Sister Poems (Clarion Books) were inspired by personal experiences. [Listen to poems from Swimming Upstream: Middle School Poems and other titles at Kristine O'Connell George: Poetry Aloud.]  Camping and fishing trips in Colorado and family expeditions exploring ghost towns served as rich resource material for Toasting Marshmallows: Camping Poems.

Dreams, and those muzzly moments of half-consciousness when one is drifting off to sleep or just waking up, are another wellspring of ideas and images for poems. A dream about flying in a windstorm—using a jacket as a sail—resulted in my first published poem, ‘Skating in the Wind.’ [Here is a young boy reading the poem at Homemade Mama.] (While I often hope to discover good ideas in the notebook I keep by my bedside along with my handy-dandy flashlight pen, I rarely can decipher my scrawl.)


How do you choose the form of your poems?
Kristine: If I’m lucky, the poem will give me hints. Perhaps it’s tidy and polite and best tucked into cozy couplets. Maybe it’s a ‘free-range’ poem that longs to stretch its free verse legs into boundless white space. (Most of the poems in Emma Dilemma: Big Sister Poems (Clarion Books) and Swimming Upstream: Middle School Poems (Clarion Books) are primarily free verse. In both cases, I ‘heard’ my narrator’s voices in my head as conversational.)

Sometimes I deliberately choose a ‘non-form’ that hints at a more formal structure. An example of this would be Little Dog Poems and Little Dog and Duncan (Clarion Books). Because the ideas for the poems captured discrete moments in the lives of two dogs, they could easily have been haikus. However, after much deliberation, I chose to create ‘looser’ poems (someone described them as haiku-ish) in the hopes that they might serve as easily-mastered templates for very young writers. (Based on the bushels of ‘Little Pet’ poems I have had the pleasure of reading, I think it worked out.)

Last, when I encounter a stubborn poem, I will rewrite (endlessly) in as many forms as possible until a form shouts:  Me! Pick me! During school visits, I often share all (All!) of the revisions I wrote for ‘Polliwogs’ from The Great Frog Race (Clarion Books). Students are astonished (and horrified) as I have them count the number of revisions. Forty seven!


What surprising things have you learned by accepting the challenge of fitting meaning into a structured form? What are the benefits of accepting these disciplined restrictions?
Kristine: In our poetry writing classes, Myra Cohn Livingston often had us rewrite poems in a variety of forms (and voices). This invaluable training forced me to think deeply about my topic and not merely skim the surface. As a result, I often write poems in strict metered and rhymed forms and then ‘deconstruct’ as I play with ideas, layout, and readability. What often remains is the sense of a form and, rather than rigid rhymed lines, there are internal/slant rhymes.

Sometimes, while writing in a structured, rhymed form, I discover that while it’s fun to read aloud, I’ve added so much padding that it distracts from and dilutes the main idea. Increasingly, I lean toward ‘less is more’ and often distill or condense longer poems into short, tight poems such as haikus. The four haiku about a flashlight in Toasting Marshmallows: Camping Poems (Clarion Books) are an example of my ‘get on and off the page quickly’ approach


What tools (rhyming dictionary, book of forms, etc.) do you use in writing poetry (if any)?
Kristine: All! I have yards of how-to poetry books of all flavors. While I do read and study these books, I don’t often refer to them when I am working on a poem. I may, however, dip into a rhyming dictionary if I am really, really stuck.


What would you like students or children to know about poetry?
Kristine: I keep thinking about Kate DiCamillo’s reply to a young reading asking why there are words in a book: "Words are a special way for me to tell you a story and I don’t have to be there. It’s like magic.” [A Conversation with Kate DiCamillo facilitated by Lisa Von Drasek of the Kerlan Collection can be viewed on YouTube.]

I think poetry is magic as well. It is nearly unimaginable to me how words—mere marks on paper—have this surprising power to make an intimate connection with a reader across centuries, continents, or cultures. I hope—at least once in a lifetime—that every student might experience that elusive, breath-catching moment when they realize that another human feels as they do. One of my favorite memories is of a 4th grader curled up in the corner of the library reading one of Myra Cohn Livingston’s collections. I’ve forgotten which collection it was, but not what the student told me as she hugged the book: “This lady is just like me.” I have also not forgotten what a very shy 3rd grader whispered to me after an assembly: “I feel like you wrote your poems just for me.” These experiences that connect us are what I’d like students to know about poetry. I’d also like students to know that—through poetry—they can send their own unique voices out in to the world.


Finally, one of your esteemed colleagues suggested I ask for a poem in a foreign verse form. Would you be willing to share a poem for this project?
Joan: Happily! Will you be naming said esteemed colleague? ;)
When asked to contribute a poem for Jan Greenberg’s Heart to Heart: New Poems Inspired by Twentieth Century American Art, I chose a pantoum to try to capture the repetition and sense of an echo in Kiki Smith’s ‘These Eyes.’ Here is the poem along with some interesting responses from students at PoetryRed5-7.
Poem ©Kristine O'Connell George. All rights reserved.

A million thanks to Kristine for participating in my Jumping Into Form project this month.

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22. NPM Project: Jumping Into Form - Michael Rosen on Form

While Michael Rosen and I connected over a possible interview, we had a series of interesting conversations about this project and my interest in form. I was thrilled when he offered to write a piece on form, so I gladly accepted. That is what I am sharing today.

I had to resist the temptation to highlight the points that struck a chord as I read, but I realized they may not be the same points that stand out for you. This is an important piece and part of a larger conversation. I hope teachers, writers, and poetry lovers alike will take these wise words to heart.

The Problem with Poetic Forms? Not Thinking of Them as Solutions
—Michael J. Rosen
(You can learn more about Michael at his web site.)

After 35 years of teaching kids poetry (this would be some series classes and many visiting author workshops), I can report that writing poetry is way too easy for kids. And way too hard. Rhyme is too easy; and too hard. So are syllabics such as haiku. Dare I say that poetic form—any one—is both too easy and too hard. And these troubles (and there are many) stem from a fundamental absence of the very opportunities that poetry is supposed to provide for a writer: the rewards of challenging work, the gratification of a new perspective or appreciation, the stumbling upon breakthroughs and surprises. 

Consider these fragments that follow “corrective measures.” Consider them notes—to myself, to my colleagues, to young writers—that aim to reframe the way we offer forms of poetry to children. 

*    *    *

Form is structure. It’s support. It’s solidity. It’s what words and lines and sentences and narrative and images and ideas are build upon or within. Form keeps writers (kids and adults) from just saying the first words that come to mind, from being okay with (done!) whatever sentiment, observation, word choice, etc., hits the page first. We all need a challenge to our thoughts. Indeed, the poet W. B. Yeats said that poetry was a writer arguing with himself. 

We need to let poetic form be the ring in which young writers can wrestle with their thoughts. 

*    *    *

Think of the role that gravity plays in dance. It’s what makes lightness remarkable. Just how thrilling would a lift be in ballet, say, if gravity weren’t an issue? If a dancer could float across the stage in a leap. Dance would be an entirely different art if weightlessness were a factor.

Poetic form is gravity. It’s what adds weight to our words. It’s what adds bravura, boldness, and originality to our ordinary expressions.

*    *    *

Even if a poetic form—sonnet, tanka, ballad, limerick—possesses, by some definitions, a standard pattern or a required structure, it can’t be an ice-cube tray into which words are merely poured, frozen, and dumped out. That form has to be an ice sculpture in which the writing reveals something remarkable. 

If we simply describe the structure of a form and agree that anything that “fits” it, is, indeed, a successful use of the form, that’s like saying that reading the progression of letters in a series of words is the same as comprehending what that sentence means. 

*    *    *

Instead, poetic forms uncover possibilities. They don’t take “what we know” and simply add rhymes or break up lines. They take “what we don’t know,” and inch us, revision by revision, toward knowing. They take impressions and memories and general topics and things we’re curious about, and put them under pressure so that all the words begin interacting—banging into one another, ricocheting off the “walls” of the form—and, thereby, create heat and light. Yes, too often, we never give kids a chance to feel that illumination, that charge of power! 

*    *    *

Another trouble: Ideas. In my book, we shouldn’t expect that what a kid writes about is going to be…wow! brilliant! truly inspired! utterly remarkable! And we shouldn’t set them up with that expectation. (That’s why the library isn’t filled with the work of kids, right?) So what’s our job as teachers? To help them master the forms? Oh, sure, to some degree. But more importantly, it’s to create exhilarating experiences, to afford enormous and unexpected pleasures, to make the writing of poetry a practice that nourishes and enlivens. A kid who loves the act…will continue it. Will get better at it. Will eventually master forms. And, eventually, will write poems of substance and significance. The great 20th century poet W. H. Auden believed that “hanging around with words,” was more crucial for a young person’s development as a writer than having something to say.

Give kids a chance to feel the rewards that come from concentration and struggle, the fulfillment that comes from puzzling, repeated attempts, and invention. See if you can’t remove the pleasure (that’s mostly just “relief”) from that initial coming up with something. And remove it from the “relief” of quickly turning in something, with its coincident pleasure of getting to go on to whatever’s next. 

Sustain the pleasure of right now…for as long as possible. 

*    *    *

For a reader or listener, rhyme can lift a poem into music, insinuate lines into memory, and afford the intrinsic pleasure of repetition. But for the writer, the role of rhyme is to challenge and, therein, elevate the language of the poem. Rhyme’s role is to be unrelenting, so that the writer must search for that just right word, adjust the line breaks or description or content or phrasing, in order satisfy the rhyme scheme…in a pleasing way. 

Rhymes confer an aural emphasis on certain words—typically, end words, which are already cued up in that important terminal position. Ideally, rhyming words are important ones…that produce more than just a repetition of a syllable or vowel sound. And to that end: It’s key to remember that the first word in a rhymed pair doesn’t rhyme. It sets up the second word, so that  I T   R I N G S  O U T…and, most often, we let kids work in a way that allows them to force a match to the first word in a rhyming pair with an unimportant second word. So the second word merely sounds—and sounds lame or illogical—rather than reveals something as it echoes. 

So changing the whole way of composing rhymes is vital. Pry loose words that offer hackneyed or obtuse rhymes. Use a rhyming dictionary. Generate a pool of possible rhymes. Use a thesaurus to try a different word that might generate a whole new set of options. 

*    *    *

Likewise, counting syllables, as in haiku or tanka or other forms, creates a similar trouble: That process should involve uncertainty, not certainty. It’s so easy to let kids feel the contentment of being quick and being done…rather than the genuine contentment with the work itself. Counting syllables should happen LAST. It, too should be part of the argument with the content itself. It should create tension. (Ah! Think of a line of poetry as a string on a violin or guitar. In order to resonate, that line has to be taut, not simply stretched out.) Syllabics causes compression and expansion that should initiate a new flow of words, options, and subject matter. The way kids are typically given the form, they stuff words into a syllabic form like tepid leftovers into a Styrofoam clamshell (that is typically left at the restaurant or in the car or in the back of the fridge…forgotten because, well, it really wasn’t that good in the first place!). [You must block that metaphor, and yet that goofy overextension does hint at why students  lack motivation to revise or illustrate or read aloud something they drum up so easily and execute so hastily.] 

*    *    *

One other trouble. When it comes to poetry, we don’t give kids enough time to dive in, come up for air, dive in again. And then we typically give them one chance. Try this form. Great! Now, let’s move onto some other form. And even writing poetry of any sort is typically confined to one unit or just a once-in-a-while treat (or torture). And this survey approach—one form after another—doesn’t let any familiarity or efficiency or experimentation kick in. So it’s like doing a preliminary sketch, and then adding the finishing touches and the frame…even before the perspective, the composition, the details, or the colors have been thought through. 

Think of anything you’ve learned to do well—casting a fly-fishing rod, crimping the edges of a perfect pie crust, floating up into a yoga head stand. If you only had one chance to try these “forms,” your success is going to be limited. As will be the pleasure in the…frustrating? slapdash? improving?...accomplishment. How do we improve except by repetition? 

Let me leave you with this: Practice doesn’t only make perfect. Along the way, practice makes for possibilities, including the possibility of enjoying the craft enough to…one day…master it. 

*    *    *

Thank you, thank you, a million thank you's to Michael J. Rosen for providing us with such rich food for thought on form.

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23. NPM Project: Jumping Into Form - Michael J. Rosen on Form

While Michael Rosen and I connected over a possible interview, we had a series of interesting conversations about this project and my interest in form. I was thrilled when he offered to write a piece on form, so I gladly accepted. That is what I am sharing today.

I had to resist the temptation to highlight the points that struck a chord as I read, but I realized they may not be the same points that stand out for you. This is an important piece and part of a larger conversation. I hope teachers, writers, and poetry lovers alike will take these wise words to heart.
 
The Problem with Poetic Forms? Not Thinking of Them as Solutions
—Michael J. Rosen
(You can learn more about Michael at his web site.)

After 35 years of teaching kids poetry (this would be some series classes and many visiting author workshops), I can report that writing poetry is way too easy for kids. And way too hard. Rhyme is too easy; and too hard. So are syllabics such as haiku. Dare I say that poetic form—any one—is both too easy and too hard. And these troubles (and there are many) stem from a fundamental absence of the very opportunities that poetry is supposed to provide for a writer: the rewards of challenging work, the gratification of a new perspective or appreciation, the stumbling upon breakthroughs and surprises. 

Consider these fragments that follow “corrective measures.” Consider them notes—to myself, to my colleagues, to young writers—that aim to reframe the way we offer forms of poetry to children. 

*    *    *

Form is structure. It’s support. It’s solidity. It’s what words and lines and sentences and narrative and images and ideas are build upon or within. Form keeps writers (kids and adults) from just saying the first words that come to mind, from being okay with (done!) whatever sentiment, observation, word choice, etc., hits the page first. We all need a challenge to our thoughts. Indeed, the poet W. B. Yeats said that poetry was a writer arguing with himself. 

We need to let poetic form be the ring in which young writers can wrestle with their thoughts. 

*    *    *

Think of the role that gravity plays in dance. It’s what makes lightness remarkable. Just how thrilling would a lift be in ballet, say, if gravity weren’t an issue? If a dancer could float across the stage in a leap. Dance would be an entirely different art if weightlessness were a factor.

Poetic form is gravity. It’s what adds weight to our words. It’s what adds bravura, boldness, and originality to our ordinary expressions.

*    *    *

Even if a poetic form—sonnet, tanka, ballad, limerick—possesses, by some definitions, a standard pattern or a required structure, it can’t be an ice-cube tray into which words are merely poured, frozen, and dumped out. That form has to be an ice sculpture in which the writing reveals something remarkable. 

If we simply describe the structure of a form and agree that anything that “fits” it, is, indeed, a successful use of the form, that’s like saying that reading the progression of letters in a series of words is the same as comprehending what that sentence means. 

*    *    *

Instead, poetic forms uncover possibilities. They don’t take “what we know” and simply add rhymes or break up lines. They take “what we don’t know,” and inch us, revision by revision, toward knowing. They take impressions and memories and general topics and things we’re curious about, and put them under pressure so that all the words begin interacting—banging into one another, ricocheting off the “walls” of the form—and, thereby, create heat and light. Yes, too often, we never give kids a chance to feel that illumination, that charge of power! 

*    *    *

Another trouble: Ideas. In my book, we shouldn’t expect that what a kid writes about is going to be…wow! brilliant! truly inspired! utterly remarkable! And we shouldn’t set them up with that expectation. (That’s why the library isn’t filled with the work of kids, right?) So what’s our job as teachers? To help them master the forms? Oh, sure, to some degree. But more importantly, it’s to create exhilarating experiences, to afford enormous and unexpected pleasures, to make the writing of poetry a practice that nourishes and enlivens. A kid who loves the act…will continue it. Will get better at it. Will eventually master forms. And, eventually, will write poems of substance and significance. The great 20th century poet W. H. Auden believed that “hanging around with words,” was more crucial for a young person’s development as a writer than having something to say.

Give kids a chance to feel the rewards that come from concentration and struggle, the fulfillment that comes from puzzling, repeated attempts, and invention. See if you can’t remove the pleasure (that’s mostly just “relief”) from that initial coming up with something. And remove it from the “relief” of quickly turning in something, with its coincident pleasure of getting to go on to whatever’s next. 

Sustain the pleasure of right now…for as long as possible. 

*    *    *

For a reader or listener, rhyme can lift a poem into music, insinuate lines into memory, and afford the intrinsic pleasure of repetition. But for the writer, the role of rhyme is to challenge and, therein, elevate the language of the poem. Rhyme’s role is to be unrelenting, so that the writer must search for that just right word, adjust the line breaks or description or content or phrasing, in order satisfy the rhyme scheme…in a pleasing way. 

Rhymes confer an aural emphasis on certain words—typically, end words, which are already cued up in that important terminal position. Ideally, rhyming words are important ones…that produce more than just a repetition of a syllable or vowel sound. And to that end: It’s key to remember that the first word in a rhymed pair doesn’t rhyme. It sets up the second word, so that  I T   R I N G S  O U T…and, most often, we let kids work in a way that allows them to force a match to the first word in a rhyming pair with an unimportant second word. So the second word merely sounds—and sounds lame or illogical—rather than reveals something as it echoes. 

So changing the whole way of composing rhymes is vital. Pry loose words that offer hackneyed or obtuse rhymes. Use a rhyming dictionary. Generate a pool of possible rhymes. Use a thesaurus to try a different word that might generate a whole new set of options. 

*    *    *

Likewise, counting syllables, as in haiku or tanka or other forms, creates a similar trouble: That process should involve uncertainty, not certainty. It’s so easy to let kids feel the contentment of being quick and being done…rather than the genuine contentment with the work itself. Counting syllables should happen LAST. It, too should be part of the argument with the content itself. It should create tension. (Ah! Think of a line of poetry as a string on a violin or guitar. In order to resonate, that line has to be taut, not simply stretched out.) Syllabics causes compression and expansion that should initiate a new flow of words, options, and subject matter. The way kids are typically given the form, they stuff words into a syllabic form like tepid leftovers into a Styrofoam clamshell (that is typically left at the restaurant or in the car or in the back of the fridge…forgotten because, well, it really wasn’t that good in the first place!). [You must block that metaphor, and yet that goofy overextension does hint at why students  lack motivation to revise or illustrate or read aloud something they drum up so easily and execute so hastily.] 

*    *    *

One other trouble. When it comes to poetry, we don’t give kids enough time to dive in, come up for air, dive in again. And then we typically give them one chance. Try this form. Great! Now, let’s move onto some other form. And even writing poetry of any sort is typically confined to one unit or just a once-in-a-while treat (or torture). And this survey approach—one form after another—doesn’t let any familiarity or efficiency or experimentation kick in. So it’s like doing a preliminary sketch, and then adding the finishing touches and the frame…even before the perspective, the composition, the details, or the colors have been thought through. 

Think of anything you’ve learned to do well—casting a fly-fishing rod, crimping the edges of a perfect pie crust, floating up into a yoga head stand. If you only had one chance to try these “forms,” your success is going to be limited. As will be the pleasure in the…frustrating? slapdash? improving?...accomplishment. How do we improve except by repetition? 

Let me leave you with this: Practice doesn’t only make perfect. Along the way, practice makes for possibilities, including the possibility of enjoying the craft enough to…one day…master it. 

*    *    *

Thank you, thank you, a million thank you's to Michael J. Rosen for providing us with such rich food for thought on form.

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24. NPM Project: Jumping Into Form - Writing Poetry

On this last day of the month I thought I would wrap up this year's National Poetry Month project by highlighting books that focus on form and the writing of poetry.

When I was in high school I wrote free verse, largely that's all I really knew. While I recall writing the occasional haiku as a English assignment, I was never instructed on how to write poetry. Oh, how I wish I had been! Poetry can be so much fun to play and puzzle with. Trying to make your ideas and favorite words fit into a structured form can be a daunting task, but one that gives much satisfaction upon its completion.

Today I rely on a varied collection of books while writing poetry. In addition to the "adult" books on poetry reading and writing, I often turn to books for children and young adults to help me think about form and process. Here are some of the books I use with regularity.
A Kick in the Head: An Everyday Guide to Poetic Forms (2005), compiled by Paul B. Janeczko and illustrated by Chris Raschka, begins with an introduction about poetic forms. It reads:
Why, you may ask, do poems have rules? Why 17 syllables in a haiku? Why 14 lines in a sonnet? The answer is: rules make the writing of a poem more challenging, more exciting. Think of a game you enjoy, like baseball. Imagine how much less intriguing the game would be if there were no foul line or limit to the number of outs in an inning. The rules often ask, "Can you do a good job within these limits?" Knowing the rules makes poetry—like sports—more fun, for players and spectators alike.
What follows are 29 poetics forms. Each form is accompanied by some kind of visual clue in the top corner of the page. For example, the page for couplet shows two birds on a wire, epitaph shows a headstone, and ode shows a Grecian urn. Once the form has been identified, readers find a short informational description and poetic example. Here's what you'll find on the page for Riddle Poem.
The beginning of eternity
The end of time and space,
The beginning of every end,
The end of every place. 
Anonymous 
A riddle poem indirectly describes a person, place, thing, or idea. The reader must try to figure out the subject of the riddle. A riddle poem can be any length and usually has a rhyme scheme of abcb or aabb.
This volume not only contains many familiar forms, such as haiku, cinquain, acrostic and limerick, but also forms such as aubade, pantoum, villanelle, and double dactyl. At the end of the book readers will find a bit more background information on each of the 29 forms.
Getting From Here To There: Writing and Reading Poetry (1982, OP), written by Florence Grossman, is a book I pulled out of a discard pile years ago, but one that I still crack open. If you can find a copy, it would be worth your while to look it over. Here is how it begins.
Most people have never written poetry, yet most people, at one time or another. have had the vague sense of a poem lurking somewhere, something they had experienced that had to be told in a special way. This book is addressed to you if you have ever wanted to write a poem and did not know the place to begin, or if you have not trusted yourself because you thought you did not know the language of poetry. 
... And rhyme? Most beginning writers are boxed in by rhyme because they're busy thinking about the word that will rhyme instead of allowing words and ideas to bounce off each other. For now, forget about rhyme. Focus on rhythm. When you begin to listen to yourself, the poem will find its own rhythm. It will find its own length. Once you get rolling, the poem will assume a life of its own. It will tell you what it has to say.
This is book is organized into the following chapters: (1) Lists; (2) Then; (3) Things; (4) Signs; (5) Image; (6) People; (7) Clothes, etc.; (8) Sound/Silence; (9) Persona; and (10) Dreams and Fantasies. What I love is that in the introduction to each chapter, Grossman gives readers a perspective and an insight into writing poetry that is often profound. Here is an example from the chapter "Things."
Paper clips, rubber bands, a book of matches, these small things that go about daily business of their lives—most people would never think of them as subjects of poetry. But as walls have ears and pillows have secrets, each of these things has its own story. It has been places and done things. For the poets it's a matter of tuning in, of holding the spool of thread until we have heard what it has to say. Look long enough at a pencil and the poem will begin.
In addition to these insights, each chapter contains numerous example poems, thought prompts, and writing suggestions. The text ends with a section entitled Some Notes on Self Editing. There are 10 bulleted items here that are pithy and helpful. Here are a few.
  • What we are after here is honesty.
  • We all have our own words, words that we've carried around with us for years, words that we've tried on and we're comfortable with. These are the words of "our voice" that tell the reader someone has written this poem. Be true to those words.
  • Honest also means the exact word rather than the well-that-will-do word. Poetry is concise—no time to fool around with approximations. "The best words," says Wallace Stevens, "in their best order."
A Crow Doesn't Need A Shadow: A Guide to Writing Poetry From Nature (1994), written by Lorraine Ferra with illustrations by Diane Boardman, focuses on the "integration of our inner and outer landscapes. Through nature field trips, children and adults are invited to reflect on their personal place in the world." Sections of the book include: (1) Poetry Field Trips; (2) Building a Nature Wordscape; (3) Keeping a Nature Journal; (4) Other Explorations such as, finding a companion in nature, creating a landscape, colors in the natural world, dreaming up a place, nature in your hand, and more; (5) Anthology--a sampling of original poems by young authors; and (6) A Note To Educators (written by Mona Hirschi Daniels). The book begins this way.
Open the Door
An Invitation to Readers 
Over three hundred years ago, the poet Matsuo Basho said, "To learn about a tree, go to a tree. Basho was considering more than the scientific facts you learn about trees. He was suggesting that the creatures of the natural world speak a language, one perhaps different from yours, but one you can understand if you listen with your imagination. 
...Every chapter of this book, every poem, is a different door you can open to the natural world. Choose any of these doors, open it, and step quietly outside with your pencil, paper, and imagination.
In the section Creating a Landscape, Ferra shares a recipe poem by a twelve year old boy and guides readers through the process of writing their own. Here's an excerpt.
Look through a cookbook. As you read the directions for several different recipes, write down the verbs which tell you what to do with the ingredients. Make a list of about ten or twelve different verbs. Keep in mind that you probably won't use all the verbs you find. Be selective for your poem.

Some possible subjects might be a recipe for a cave, foggy morning, a bird refuge, a season or particular month, a moonlit field, a river, or a sunset. Once you decide on your subject, start listing some ingredients.
While there is no emphasis here on form, this is wonderful book for encouraging close observation, a skill so vital to the poet's craft.
 
Fly With Poetry: An ABC of Poetry (2000), written and illustrated by Avis Harley, uses the alphabet to organize 26 different poetic forms (two for the letter A and none for Y). Each page includes a poem written in the named form with information at the bottom of the page describing the form. Additional poetic forms are included in the end notes.

Leap Into Poetry: More ABCs of Poetry (2001), written and illustrated by Avis Harley, is a companion to FLY WITH POETRY that uses the alphabetic format to introduce a variety of poetic forms and techniques. Each letter introduces an arthropod in a poem that uses the stated form or technique. Facts about each animal are included in the end notes.
Write Your Own Poetry (2008), written by Laura Purdie Salas, is a book that provides a thorough introduction to the process and tools of writing poetry. There are chapters on poetic forms, language of poetry, imagery, point of view, meter and rhyme, and more. Jam-packed with sample poems, helpful tips and advice from poets, this is a comprehensive introduction to writing poetry.
Immersed in Verse: An Informative, Slightly Irreverent & Totally Tremendous Guide to Living the Poet's Life (2006), written by Allan Wolf and illustrated by Tuesday Morning, is a how-to guide on becoming a poet for middle grades and young adults. The book begins this way.
Have you noticed how rhythm makes you move? How heave bass vibrates the door panels of passing cars? Have you noticed the colors of a rainbow? How the stench of fireworks burns your eyes? How you cold winter hands sting under warm water? To be a poet is to notice.
...
Poems are all around us, waiting to be written. The world teems with words, images, ideas, sights, sounds, colors, anecdotes, notions, and emotions. Just as water is the stuff of life to a fish, the world is the stuff of life to be a poet. all you need to do is dive in.
The book is divided into several sections, each color-coded for ease of use. Poetry & You offers readers a quick guided tour of poetry, nine habits of successful poets (such as get gonzo over words, write every day and play), a writing pledge and more you. Your Poetry Toolbox explains the tools of the trade, such as poetic devices and the anatomy of a poem. The Poet's Decisions delves deep into the process of writing, providing lessons on point of view, tense, form, playing with structure, revising and much more. Always Something to Write About provides ideas for journaling and writing prompts. The last major section, Ta Da!: Presenting Your Work is about reading, performing and publishing poetry. Liberally sprinkled throughout the text are examples and lots of poems from a range of poets.

One of my favorite sections is entitled Your Best Revising Tools. Having just spent a significant amount of time revising a poem, I can tell you how much these ring true. Here they are in abbreviated form.
  1. Time - It's very difficult to read a poem objectively on the day you wrote it. It's best to let it age—a day, a week, a month.
  2. An Audition - With poetry, there's no room for words that aren't pulling their weight. Make those words work for you. Make them prove they belong where they are.
  3. A Sense of Fearless Tinkering - Don't be afraid to take apart what you've done. . . . Take your poem apart and put it back together. Don't worry about the extra parts still on the floor.
  4. Highlighting the Poem's Golden Moments - Use a yellow highlighter to designate your poem's top three golden moments (be they a single work, a partial phrase, or an entire line) that are vital to the poem's life. . . . Once you've highlighted the poem's golden moments, examine the remaining words with a critical eye.
  5. Vivacious Vocal Cords - Poetry is ultimately a spoken art. . . . but it's also a great revision tool. It helps flag a poem's awkward phrases, blips, bleeps, and blemishes.
The book ends with appendices of selected poems and poets, as well as publishing resources for young writers.
 
How to Write Poetry, written by Paul Janeczko, is a Scholastic Guide that organizes the poetry writing process in easy-to-follow steps. The chapters on starting to write, writing poems that rhyme, and writing free verse poems all offer a wealth of information, sample poems, and "try this" suggestions. Different poetic forms are introduced along with checklists to keep writer's focused on important features. Includes an extensive glossary.

Poetry from A to Z: A Guide for Young Writers, written by Paul Janeczko, is a collection of 72 poems arranged alphabetically by subject. Also included are 14 poetry-writing exercises that show how to write specific types of poems and advice from more than twenty poets on becoming a better writer.
Poetry Matters: Writing a Poem From the Inside Out, written by Ralph Fletcher, is a good guide to writing poetry from the heart. Chapters deal with imagery, rhythm, crafting poems, wordplay, and more. Major poetic forms are defined and there is a section on ways to share your work. Interviews with Kristine O'Connell George, Janet Wong, and J. Patrick Lewis are included. A number of poems written by Fletcher are included as examples in these chapters.
 
Seeing the Blue Between: Advice and Inspiration for New Poets, compiled by Paul Janeczko, contains a collection of letters and poems by children's poets. Written to and for aspiring writers, this volume provides advice and inspiration.

The Place My Words Are Looking For: What Poets Say About and Through Their Work, selected by Paul Janeczko, is a collection of poems, advice, anecdotes, and recollections of 39 poets. Following their poems, poets describe their inspirations, memories, where they get their ideas, their writing processes, and how they go about translating their ideas in to poetic form.

If you are looking for additional resources on poetry writing, try these sites.
April may be ending, but that doesn't mean the poetry goodness must stop. I hope you'll revisit some of the posts from this month as you incorporate more poetry reading and writing in your classroom.

Thanks to everyone who has stopped by this month. It has been a joy sharing poetry with you.

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25. Poetry Seven Share Pantoums

During the month of April the Poetry Seven spent their time working on the pantoum. Here is a description of the form.
The pantoum is a poem made up of stanzas of four lines where lines 2 and 4 of each stanza are repeated as lines 1 and 3 of the next stanza. The final stanza of a pantoum has an interesting twist. Lines 2 and 4 are the same as the 3rd and 1st of the first stanza, thereby using every line in the poem twice. 
Keep in mind that this form of poetry is of an indefinite length. It could be 3 stanzas, 4 stanzas or 20! 
(Adapted from The Teachers & Writers Handbook of Poetic Forms.)
There was no theme this time around, just two words--certainties and flight.

My very first thought was the phrase "certainties of flight." This made me think of birds and later, baby birds. I ended up writing many, many versions of a wood duck poem. In the first draft I shared with my sisters, the 2nd line of the 2nd stanza was "in trees that stretch so tall." I disliked "so tall" and wanted something like towering trees, but couldn't find a way to say it. Then it hit me that I was describing one nest and needed only one tree. So, I changed it to "in a tree that stretches tall." I still wasn't happy with the description, but wanted to keep the end rhyme because I liked where it took the poem. In the most recent version I picked a specific tree and chose the word sky for my end rhyme. This one change, of course, meant changes elsewhere. Without further ado, here are both poems, the first shared draft and my most recent revision.

Untitled Pantoum Draft V.1

Do wood duck ducklings dream of flight
when huddled in the nest together?
Picture the world from a dizzying height
while from the ground untethered?

Huddled in the nest together
in a tree that stretches tall
from the ground untethered
soon they’ll leap and fall

In a tree that stretches tall
high above the forest floor
brave young ducklings leap and fall
uncertain drop before they soar

High above the forest floor
looking down from a dizzying height
uncertain drop before they soar
wood duck ducklings dream of flight


Untitled Pantoum (Semi-Final Draft)

Do wood duck ducklings dream of flight
while huddled sleeping in their nest
the world below a glorious sight
the urge to jump for now suppressed

Huddled sleeping in their nest
red oak stretching toward the sky
the urge to jump can’t be suppressed
soon they’ll fall before they fly

Red oak stretching toward the sky
high above the forest floor
ducklings fall before they fly
uncertain drop before they soar

High above the forest floor
the world below a glorious sight
uncertain drop before they soar
wood duck ducklings dream of flight

Poems ©Tricia Stohr-Hunt, 2015. All rights reserved.



My writing of the above poem was inspired by something I saw several years ago while watching the BBC series Planet Earth. Of course, these are Mandarin ducks, but woods ducks have the exact same experience, and this jumping/falling from a great height stuck with me.

While working on the wood duck poem, the phrase "flight risk" kept popping into my head. When it took root and wouldn't leave, I started thinking about escaping small town life and began working on a second piece. Here is an early draft of this poem, also still a work in progress.

Flight Risk

She was a flight risk from the start
with dreams too big to be restrained
small town girl, big city heart
she sought an honest life unchained

With dreams too big to be restrained
by certainties of rural life
she sought an honest life unchained
wouldn’t be some farmer’s wife

Forget the certainties of life
she was reaching for the moon
refused to be some farmer’s wife
and disappeared one afternoon

She was reaching for the moon
small town girl, big city heart
she disappeared one afternoon
fled to chase a brand new start

Poem ©Tricia Stohr-Hunt, 2015. All rights reserved.

You can read the poems written by my Poetry Seven compatriots at the links below. 

I do hope you'll take some time to check out all the wonderful poetic things being shared and collected today by Ellen at Space City Scribes. Happy poetry Friday friends! 

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