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Showing posts from August, 2007

Something Extraordinary in the Ordinary

Students often say that they can't write poetry because they can't think of anything important to say. They assume that poetry requires a profound theme to be good. They don't realize that a good poem can focus on ordinary aspects of daily life. The poet's job is to show me something extraordinary in the ordinary.

To help students do this, I give them a list of ordinary mundane tasks, such as walking the dog, ironing clothes or washing the car. They select a task and write a poem on that aspect of daily life. Here are two poems on taking out the trash.

Ransford Laryea, grade 11

Wheeling out the garbage the rubber tires
lock against clay lumps
set against the dark line of dry hills.

Time ticks toward daylight
and a flying Avon catalogue hits my porch:
an undergrad's tedious job.

Later that day thick girls
giggling beside me
turn my face clown nose red.

Tuesday Morning
Matthew Morgan, grade 11

My mind maps Tuesday morning.
I drag out the trash
through air like …

The Pantoum

A pantoum is a form of poetry that requires students to pay close attention to structure. It is written in quatrains, with spaces between the quatrains, although some contemporary poets leave out the traditional spaces. The stanzas are linked with lines 2 and 4 becoming lines 1 and 3 of the next quantrain. The pantoum ends by the final quatrain repeating lines 1 and 3 of the first stanza, or lines 1 and 3 can become lines 4 and 2 of the final stanza.

Many of my students have found this complex form fun, like a puzzle. The effect of the repetition is sometimes startling and profound.

The following pantoum was written by Martiese Morone, grade 12. It does not end in the traditional way, but he has found a satisfying ending to this poem about anxiety.

Do I Really Want to Know?

Is it someone I know?
I stand petrified, silent
wondering what's behind the closed door.
Is it dark?

I stand petrified, silent
Is someone there?
Is it dark?
I raise my hand to knock.

Is someone there?
Do I really want to kn…