Reading to Write Poetry Lessons

Lesson: WHAT IS POETRY? WHAT MAKES A POEM WORK?

Why poetry?

Excerpts from the film: Dead Poets Society

How is poetry different from prose?

Traditional poetry and Free Verse Poetry
Traditional Verse:

Free verse poetry examples:

Now you try a traditional style poem using this model:

How to Read a Poem:

Poet Jane Hirshfield tells us that in Japan, “it is sometimes thought that no experience is complete until the poem that comes from it is written.” (Awakening the Creative Spirit, p. 112) Poems  want us to read them more than once so we can live more deeply into the words and notice what they are calling our attention to.  Let the images, rhythms, words sink in.

FIRST READING: Meeting the Poem.
CLOSE READING: Some things to look for in a poem, terms to notice or highlight such as mood, repetition, stanza, and figurative language—in other words, important parts of the way the poem works together to create what it is.
AFTER READING: Say the poem aloud. Write about the poem- react to and explore it.

Making meaning of a poem, a guide

Example: “A Poison Tree”, William Blake
Example 2: “The Light of a Candle,” Yosa Buson

  • What does the text of the poem say?
  • What inferences can you draw from the text?
  • How does the poem make its meaning? How does the poem create mood, use repetition, organize the ideas into stanza breaks, line breaks, word choice, figures of speech, symbols,  imagery, sound, or other poetic devices to create meaning? How does the poem start, develop, and conclude? Who is the speaker of the poem?
  • Where does the ending of the poem ‘get you to’? What key lines or statements in the poem help you see the heart of the poem, its central idea?
  • Respond to and react to the poem. How does it affect you as a reader?

Explore poems and reading poems: Reading time.

The more poems you write, the more confident you will be when writing. You’ll surprise yourself!

While reading, ask yourself: What does the poem say? What inferences can you draw? What poems speak to you? Make a copy of at least one poem that reflects who you are. Find an image to go with the poem. Explain how the poem reflects about who you are on the inside.

Self portrait poems: Read and explore poems. Make a copy of at least one poem that reflects who you are. Find an image to go with the poem. Explain how the poem reflects about who you are on the inside.

POETRY LESSON 2: Focus: Determining theme while read: How do the details in a text, or the speaker of a poem reflect on a topic?

Symbols in poetry: symbols represent both themselves and something else: explanation.
Theme: a controlling idea– see more here:  a definition

Poems are read on two levels: the surface level of what the poem is about, and the larger message of the poem that is below the surface.  Various other lenses or levels for reading  a poem are:

  • Visual level: How does the poem look on the page–the design or appearance, use of whitespace.
  • Sensory level: What do you actually see going on? What are the events or actions of the poem.
  • Sound level: how the words sounds and feel when you read them–the tone, mood or feeling they create.
  • Idea level: the themes, inferences and symbols, and the ideas the words create and explore.
  • Combined effect of all of the above.

Poems to read and explore theme and symbol:

Reading for theme and idea:

Other Examples for use with partner discussion:

Answer these questions: What is the concrete/physical/event level of what is happening in the poem? What lines show this? What is the idea/theme/inner level of what is happening in the poem? What lines show this?

  1. Junkyards”, Julian Lee Rayford (you will need to scroll down on the document to find the poem.) How does this poem reflect the author’s idea of progress and his attitude toward it? (What is the surface level–the five w’s? What is the deeper level? What are the theme and symbols)
  2. “Caged Bird,” Maya Angelou (What does the poem look like on the page? Design and white space. Surface and deep levels, theme & symbols?)
  3. “A Day in Autumn,”  R. S. Thomas
  4. September,” John Mole
  5. “The Flying Cat,” Naomi Shihab-Nye
  6. Mantel,” Cynthia Rylant

Lesson 3: POETRY CLOSE READING STRATEGY

Example close reading analysis and explanatory paragraphs:

A guided poetry analysis: a poem with questions:

Try a close reading of a poem on your own. Choose one:

Now You Try: write a poem based on a theme. Use  a symbol in the poem.
To get yourself started, brainstorm qualities of the tricycle rider or of the animal you have in mind. How is it like you?

1. “The World’s Greatest Tricycle Rider
2. Animal in Me with student examples: There is a Butterfly in Me, and a modification of the idea: There is a ruby in me

POETRY READING LESSON 4. Focus: Noticing Compare and Contrast While Reading Poetry

Mini-Lesson Example Poems:

  • “Oh, When I Was in Love With You,” A. E. Houseman. What words define the before state. What words define the after state? Where are the turn lines. What’s the main idea?
  • Every Cat Has a Story,” Naomi Shihab Nye. (Compare and contrast the attributes of the cats described in the poem. What is suggested about the cats through the details given? Make a claim for two to three of the cats described. What lines show these ideas?)
  • What We Might Be, What We Are,” J. Kennedy
  • Sideman,” Paul Muldoon reads his poem.
  • “Famous”, Naomi Shihab Nye Is this a poem that shows contrast?

More challenging poems of comparison:

Partner work turn and talk:

Compare and contrast the attributes of the main subject of the poem in one of the poems below:

  1. “When it is Snowing,” Siv Cedering Compare and contrast the sensory details in the poem. What idea about the subject is suggested or inferred?
  2. “Poppies,” Roy Scheele Compare and contrast the sensory details in the poem. What idea about the subject is suggested or inferred?
  3. “We Lived Happily During the War,” Ilya Kaminsky (What does the poem look like on the page? Design and white space. Mood. Surface and deep levels, theme. Implied contrast?)
  4.  “Curtains,”  Sandra Cisneros (What does the poem look like on the page? Design and white space. Mood. Surface and deep levels, theme. Implied contrast?)

Individual work:

Compare and contrast the way the author talks about the two roads differently. What is happening on the surface level? What is the poem about on the deeper level? What theme or idea about the topic the writer is suggesting?Make a claim.  What lines lead you to this idea and show your claim? How does the one writer develop his/her idea about the subject through line breaks, white space, word choice, imagery, sounds of the words, poetic devices, figures of speech, symbols, or other elements?

  1. The Road Not Taken,” Robert Frost
  2. “My Papa’s Waltz”, Theodore Roethke

Now you try writing a contrast poem:

You might try your own idea of a contrast poem using the following suggestions as a starter. Use the  poetry toolbox to help you get going.

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