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From News Report to Poem

Last year I had a talented Journalism student named Matthew Morgan. He did well in Journalism, publishing a few reports in the school newspaper and online. I also had Matthew in the Creative Writing class and there he struggled, especially with the poetry unit.

"I can't do this! I don't get poetry, Ms. Linsley. Why can't I just write another news story?"

I heard frustration in his voice and saw anxiety in his body language.

"In Creative Writing class everyone is required to produce a well-crafted poem, and you CAN do this, Matthew. Let's see what you have."

Poor Matthew had nothing. The page was blank. I wondered how I could jump start the creative process for this talented writer who loved Journalism but hated poetry."What are you reading about these days? What research are you doing for Journalism?"

"I'm reading about homelessness. There's this whole street culture, you know?"

"Tell me about it," I said.

And Matthew began to explain about the national problem of homelessness, about homeless societies in neighborhoods, and about the hardships. There was an emotional connection here, an element essential to the writing of a good poem, so I asked him to write a poem about this. Here is what he eventually produced, one of the finest poems I ever read on the subject of homelessness.

Homeless in LA
Matthew Morgan (Grade 11)

The old man wore a white goatee
the length and width of the nation.
He was ill when they first identified him.
His body was found in Los Angeles.
It cost me five bucks and
I broke a rule that May
for a short time
to sit at his old place near the bus stop.
The incumbent gone,
I felt like a pioneer
at the corner of Sixth and Main.


Yes, it is quite good and not typical of how most teens develop poems dealing with social issues.

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