Thursday, March 22, 2018

2018 Poem #8 -- The Power of Poetry

by Travis Crowder

So often, I find that students have a tenuous relationship with poetry. I expose students all year to poems, showing them how to unpack, create, and write about the things that are meaningful to them, the things that interest them. Most often, I find that students will grapple with more difficult poems if they have been given the opportunity to write their own.

Writing their own poetry, though, requires patience and guidance, especially if you work with reluctant readers and writers. I find that many students love writing in non-traditional formats, especially concrete poetry. I introduce nontraditional poetry early in the year, and as the year progresses, I give students chances to write poems that break traditional forms. I love using Allan Wolf’s writing as a starting point because he is an accessible poet, but he also deconstructs traditional forms to engage readers.  

I ask students to jot down these questions…

1. What do I see?
2. What do I hear?
3. What do I feel?
4. What do I smell?
5. What do I think?

...and begin adding their thinking.

Afterward, I display "Don't Be Afraid" by Allan Wolf. It is a segment from Immersed in Verse, a beautiful book of lyricism that invites any writer into the world of writing poetry.

Image taken from Allan Wolf's website, linked above. 

For a few minutes, we discuss how Wolf modifies font size, style, and spacing to match topics and ideas within his poems. Students are always mesmerized by the variations in style and are eager to create their own.

So I let them. And they use the things they saw, heard, felt, smelled, and thought as the foundation for their poems.   

I give them time to play with language, with style, with spacing, and with imagery, much like the poem from Allan Wolf. It is here that students begin to understand purpose, tone, and how poetry can push us past the ostensible. Give them a chance to create. And be prepared to stand in awe of their creations, such as the examples below:

Further Reading:

Travis Crowder is a 7th grade ELA teacher in Hiddenite, NC, teaching ten years in both middle and high school settings. His main goal is to inspire a passion for reading and writing in students. You can follow his work on Twitter (@teachermantrav) and his blog:

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