Some students resist writing poetry because they struggle to find words to contain their ideas. Poetry feels Important, Serious, and Literary. It is. But it is also simple, playful, and found in the everyday. In fact, that is its Superpower.
To help my students learn to play, I spend days on found poetry. We use words we find in an editorial, news article, school hallway, book, or in this case, songs to compose our own poems. The rules are simple: you can't add your own words; you use what you find. This takes pressure off and opens possibility.
My writer's notebook was open and under the document camera at the start of class one day. I had strips of lyrics to three songs from the Lumineers piled on two empty pages. I placed one line, then another, searched for phrases to repeat, and then added those between emerging stanzas. The beauty was in the clean, efficient revising: I lifted lines from my emerging draft and returned them to the word pile or cut a phrase into smaller parts and played with the power of line breaks to slow down my reading. I searched for consonants to repeat and unlikely combinations that led my poem to new ideas.
“Can we get started?” students asked.
Penny Kittle is a high school English teacher and writer from North Conway, New Hampshire. You can follow her work on Twitter @pennykittle.