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Feel the Emotions: Evocative Poetry

The best poetry is evocative. It stirs emotions in the reader and raises sometimes murky images to the surface. Frequently a student's struggle to write evocative poetry can be traced to problems identifying an emotion they may be feeling. Writing teachers can help students by asking, "What were you feeling when you wrote this?" Often students respond with "I was thinking..." and you have to help them move from conscious thought to consciousness of a emotion. You might ask, "Were you afraid or angry? Were you feeling sad or discouraged?"

I've developed a method to help students get in touch with emotions created by strong poetic images. I turned to the work of 20th century Spanish poets, as having taught Spanish poetry, I was especially familiar with the evocative quality of Spanish poetry. The method requires students to keep a poetry journal and builds in time for reflection on the short readings.

Here are 6 evocative images to use with students who need to get in touch with their emotions.

"The guitar makes dreams cry. The whimpering of lost souls escapes from its round mouth." Garcia Lorca

"The embers of a purple dusk smolder behind the black cypress grove." Antonio Machado

"Let me make a tree from your braids. Tomorrow they will find me hanged on the celestial knot of your veins." Gerardo Diego

"And then, when one reaches the youth of running water, the youth that places little ants on one's tongue to say 'I love you,' she came, and your eyes saw her for the first time..." Luis Rosales

"That spring his screws loosened; his sense of direction crashed on some dangerous curves." Gloria Fuentes

"All the houses are eyes, which shine and lie in wait. All the houses are mouths, which spit, bite and kiss." Miguel Hernandez


Students are to read the 6 lines from the different poets (provide these on a handout.) They are to jot the first thoughts and or feelings that come to them after reading each line. Ask volunteers to share what they have written and help the students understand the difference between a thought and an emotion.

In class list emotional tones such as despair, melancholy, yearning, bitter, sad, hopeful, etc. In small groups have students write descriptions of the tones and provide examples by quoting lines from the poems in their literature text.

Later in the week students are to write the 6 lines above in their poetry notebooks, leaving enough space to write reflections on each. The following questions and leads can help guide the students' reflections:

What is the image of this line?

What does it remind me of?

What is the emotional tone of the poem?

What do I feel when I read this?

This image makes me feel... (angry, sad, joyful, depressed, hopeful, etc.)

This line makes me feel that... (the world is...; my life is..., etc.)


Ellie said…
I think that sounds like a wonderful assignment. Those bits of poetry are especially evocative.
Thanks for stopping by, Ellie! I hope that creative writing teachers will find it helpful. I usually had good results from students with this assignment. Often students would produce poems in which they expressed grief. Creative writing is good therapy and creative writing teachers need to be prepared to help students deal with strong emotions.

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