Posts Tagged ‘repetition’

Join the Tuesday Slice of Life!

Join the Tuesday Slice of Life!

john green quote

This weekly Slice of Life Challenge makes me write. Sometimes, the writing comes easily. Sometimes, I re-write it ten times. Sometimes, I don’t know what to say. Sometimes, I think what I say is stupid, or worse, uninteresting.

This quote from John Green, the author of The Fault in Our Stars (which is an awesome book, btw) really hit home with me. I have to do a lot of self-talk to convince myself that I have something to say. I want to be worthy of your time spent here.

On Saturday, I went to Wordlab. I hadn’t been in a while, so I forgot how stimulating and yet, frightening, it is to sit with a group and write raw and read raw. This week’s guest writer-presenter was Charles Garrett. He first asked us to write 10 American sentences. I had not heard of the American sentence before. Apparently coined by Alen Ginsberg, who rejected the Japanese haiku, the American Sentence is a sentence of 17 syllables.

The apple in his eye had a bite taken out, a black and blue spot.

Don’t say this is easy until you have drawn on the page left-handed.

Speaking of the black bird singing, did you hear the owl who cooks for you?

In a perfect world where lines are straight and black is black, no grey, I’m blind.

My hips are square in this red chair, but my mind is flying to the moon.

Crazy, right? Then Charles asked us to choose one of the lines to be the title of our poem. As if that wasn’t hard enough, then we had to chose a line from within poem 1 to be the last line of poem 2. Our brains were stretched and prodded and poked, but none of us gave up.

I combined these prompts with a technique from Ava Haymon that I tried with students last week, repetition.
So even though I don’t think I have written a brilliant poem, these writing exercises give me something to write and keep me breathing and healthy.

Not everyone sings in the shower.
Not everyone believes Namaste.
Not everyone digs in the hard ground,
or buys roses to bloom the next day.

Not everyone steals to feel worthy.
Not everyone wants a stiff drink.
Not everyone smells like a flower,
or washes their hands in the sink.

Not everyone loves their own mother.
Not everyone wears socks in the bed.
Not everyone turns on the TV
to hear what the weatherman said.

Not everyone reads The New Yorker.
Not everyone watches cartoons.
Not everyone adds sugar to coffee,
or stays in pajamas ’til noon.

Not everyone likes to write poems.
Not everyone knows how to rhyme.
Not everyone has the same gifts
or discovers them all in good time.

–Margaret Simon, all rights reserved

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See more Poetry Friday with Katya at Write. Sketch. Repeat.

See more Poetry Friday with Katya at Write. Sketch. Repeat.

How do you write a poem? Where do you begin? I learned long ago from working with children writers that they are full of ideas. I wrote an article for the National Writing Project journal The Quarterly in 2005 when it was still in print titled “Writing with William.” (I was pleased to find it on a Google search.) In the article, I described a tutoring experience that led me to understand young writers need tools, not ideas, structures, not prompts. When I was talking with Ava Haymon, our state poet laureate, last weekend about writing ideas for students, she said a technique that she likes to use is repetition.

Using Ava’s poems as models, I introduced this structure to 6th graders at our monthly enrichment day we call WOW (Way out Wednesday.) “The Child Born” begins each line with the same three words, “The child who.” I asked the students to listen for the details. Following the reading, we did a memory test. “What did you remember?” While they didn’t quite understand the poem, they did remember almost every line, especially “The child who bites cuticles instead of fingernails,” and “The child who sucks her hair at night.” Details are memorable. Another model I used was Betsy Franco’s “Fourths of Me” from The Poetry Friday Anthology for Middle School.

Then I gave them the assignment: Write about whatever you want to, but begin each line or each stanza in the same way. Examples: Before, Everybody, As long as, The child who, Anyone, Who, Why, I am. The students also added beginnings to the list.

This was a successful lesson because everyone wrote a poem. Even the kid who said he hates writing poems. Even the one who said she has never written a poem before. After writing, we shared and did a memory test for each other’s poems. They realized the importance of using specificity and original ideas to draw a reader’s attention.

What Do You See?

When you see the stars, you see the sky
But when I see the stars, I see the days passing by.
When you see the beach, you see grains of sand.
But when I see the beach, I see a place untouched of man.
When you see the ocean, you see fish and pearls.
But when I see the ocean, I see an underwater world.
When you see a child, you see a small man.
But when I see a child, I see a gift from God’s hands.


Before and After

After the sun sets at night,
After the bud blooms,
After the plane takes off in flight,
I’ll go home to my room.

Before the sun rises at dawn,
Before dew forms on the flower,
Before the bird lands in its nest,
The king will give up his power.

This time I will not stay silent,
This time I will speak.
This time I will not be shy,
This time I’ll be bold.


My Dream

I am the frail one.
I am the fragile one.
I am the annoying one.
I am the one in the back of the classroom.
I am the new student.
I am the one no one wants around.
I am the dumb one.
I am the one nobody talks to.
I am the runt of the litter.
I am the timid one
Only in my dreams.


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