Saturday, October 22, 2011

How to write a poem, getting started, lyrics, feelings and concepts

B. Writing

I. Writing a Poem

This section offers step-by-step strategies for helping students to write poetry.

Getting Started

Before the process of writing can begin, it’s important tobrainstorm as to what a poem is. Some possible responses could be:

• A poem tells a story
• A poem can rhyme, but it doesn’t have to
• A poem is suggestive in meaning
• A poem can be about anything

Some people say that poems are feelings or experiences set to words. Share with your neighbours what comes to mind when you think about poetry.Write a response to each question below to help you clarify your ideas.

1. Are poems harder to understand than stories? Why?
2. Are the best poems the ones that are funny or silly?
What other kinds of poems can you think of?
3. Should poetry always rhyme?
4. Why is reading poems aloud a good way to appreciate
5. Can poems be about anything? List some things you
might like to write poems about.

Poets’Word Box

In poetry, more than almost any other form of writing, every
word counts!

The glossary given below on this page provides definitions of some key words used to discuss elements of poetry. alliteration the repetition of beginning consonant sounds (jingle, jangle, jamboree)
assonance the repetition of vowel sounds (same, rain, makes, pavement)
consonance the repetition of consonant sounds anywhere in the words (Carlos wore a black jacket)
end rhyme the rhyming of words at the ends of two or more lines of poetry
free verse poetry that does not include patterned rhyme or rhythm
haiku a three-line Japanese poem about nature; the first line has five syllables; the second, seven; and the third, five imagery pictures that are created with words
limerick a funny verse in five lines; lines one, two and five rhyme, as do two and four
metaphor a comparison without using the words like or as
narrative a poem that tells a story
onomatopoeia words whose sounds make you think of their meanings
personification a comparison in which something that is not human is described with human characteristics
repetition the repeating of a word or phrase to add rhythm
rhythm the pattern of accented and unaccented syllables in a line of poetry
simile a comparison that uses the words like or as

Task 1: Annotate the above list of terms with examples drawn from the poems you will explore during this section. For example, “Packing Up” is a good example of
personification, and Poe’s poem “The Bells” illustrates onomatopoeia:

Packing Up
Put your things away!
Into your store-box
Let there go
The myriad flakes of whirling snow.
Pack up the winds
That sway the trees
And fold them neatly.
Over there,
Pile the layers
Of ice and frost
One by one, stack on stack,
Put the crystal icicles back—
Let none be lost!
When all are in, shut the box,
And turn the key, and snap the locks.
Then, leave a note for all to read:

From The Bells

Hear the sledges with the bells—
Silver bells!
What a world of merriment their melody foretells!
How they tinkle, tinkle, tinkle
In the icy air of night!
While the stars that oversprinkle
All the heavens seem to twinkle
With a crystalline delight;
Keeping time, time, time,
In a sort of Runic rhyme,
To the tintinnabulation that so musically wells
From the bells, bells, bells, bells,
Bells, bells, bells –
From the jingling and the tinkling of the bells.

Scrap book Journals

A poem begins long before it’s written down. It often begins with sudden sights and other sensory impressions. No wonder so many poets keep a small journal handy in which to capture those fleeting, vivid impressions. By setting up and keeping scrapbook journals, you will build your sensory awareness and learn to value it as a source of poems that are yet to be.A scrapbook journal is a way to “bank” sights, sounds, and other sensory impressions so they won’t be forgotten. Head each page with the day’s date. Ideally, these pages will record an example of each of the senses and show objects or pictures as well as written phrases. Record your most vivid sensory impressions.

Your journal pages will be private, to share or not to share as you wish. You should use your scrapbook journals at least three times a week.

Poets move from impressions and sensations to words. As you build your scrapbook journal pages, you can begin to add to them phrases and sentences that represent the three special characteristics of poetry: imagery, feelings and insight.

Imagery Words, phrases, or sentences that are interesting in themselves because of the way they sound or because of the
mental pictures they conjure up. Examples:

.I heard someone say blue poodle.
.I saw floating feathers on a silent pond.
.My dad said, “I need a dollar”, but I thought he said, “I need a collar”.

Feelings Statements or questions based on emotional reactions to what was sensed. Examples:

.I felt angry that someone would dye a poodle blue.
.Why do I feel sad when I see those floating feathers?
.I felt giggly picturing my dad with a collar.

Insights Ideas or beliefs that pop into the mind. Examples:

.Pets have to put up with a lot of nonsense from their owners.
.The natural world is like a mirror for my mind.
.You have to listen closely to hear the message.

Moving into Poems

You will now realise that the images, feelings, and insights you noted in the scrapbook journals are the stuff of which poems are made. To affirm this, use the modelling strategy to know to
juggle and play with, add to and subtract from, written phrases and sentences to create a poem. Example:
Floating feathers, silent pond…..
Why am I sad to see them?
May be I am sad already,
And the pond is my mirror.

Task:Work with your partners or independently to write poems that emanate from journal notes; share your poems with the class.

Note: Poetry is a thoughtful way to explore everyday environments through the use of their senses and feelings. It provides a vehicle that is so versatile; it can offer insight into those odd, funny moments we encounter every day. Poetry assists you to make eloquent, daily commentaries about the joys and sorrows happening in your lives, but it doesn’t stop there. It can also suggest worlds of subject for you to explore, such as the life cycles of plants, animal habitats, newspaper headlines, imaginative kingdoms, biography and autobiography, or the personification of kites, toasters, dwellings, blades of grass, sunsets, snow, etc., etc. The list of possible subjects for poetry goes on and on. Poetry, ultimately, is a language of the heart.

More Concepts
The ‘Like What’ List

The building blocks for all good poetry programmes are similes and metaphors, the most frequently used figures of speech. The following activities will help you recognise and even write them on your own.

Task 1: Using Similes to Write Self-Portraits -Touch your hair. “What does your hair feel like?” Possible answers might include -

“My hair feels like dry summer grass.”
“My hair feels like tangled thread.”

Besides the texture of your hair, you might consider its colour and shape. For instance, someone with long flowing hair might say:“My hair looks like a waterfall flowing down rocky mountain shoulders”

What is a Metaphor?

A metaphor is similar to a simile since it also compares two things.What makes a metaphor different is that it is a more powerful assertion of the comparison and doesn’t include like or as.

For example, removing the word like in the following simile transforms it into the stronger comparison of a metaphor.

“My hair is like a swirling black cloud” becomes
“My hair is a swirling black cloud”.

Imagery Colours

Images can create moods and impressions about the seasons. What senses do the following images stir in you?
May is lavender -
A spray of lilacs.
August is yellow -
Butter melting on sweet corn.

Read the following poem:


Alexander, you are like a gold lightening bolt.
Alexander, you have steel for arms and legs.
I am envious toward you, Alexander,
You have the strongness of an ox pulling a cart.
You are a vicious night in winter
You grab me into your time
When you conquered the world, a place
Where I can wonder about life as it was.

Task: Write a poem on each of the following personalities using the model given above.

Mahatma Gandhi
Gandhi, you are like a………………………………………
Your body……………………………………………………
But your spirit…………………….,your smile…………….

President Abdul Kalam

Mr. President, you are like a…………………………………
Your hair………………………………………………………
Your heart……………………………………………………..
Your love for children………………………………………..
Your vision of India…………………………………………..

Sachin Tendulkar

Sachin, you are like a……………………………………….
Your …………………………………………………………

Rhythmic Patterns

Recognising Rhythm

Rhythm is an important part of poetry. These activities can help you get a better idea about what rhythm is and how it works in poetry.

What is Rhythm?

Imagine the sound of a horse galloping. “Listen” for the strongest part of the hoof beats. Now say each of these words out loud: lion, elephant, kangaroo. Which word has that galloping feel?
Rhythm in poetry comes from the way words are chosen and combined.We feel accents (strong beats) in words.


Some songs are really poems set to music. Lyrics, or the words of a song, are written so that the rhythm of the tune and accents of the words fit together.

Task: Think of lyrics to a song you know. Write them out as if they were a poem. Then highlight the words (or syllables) that get accents. Draw vertical lines with a pencil to show where the main beats are, or the places where you might clap to keep time.

Rhyme Patterns

Cat - Hat, Mouse - House

Many poems rhyme, while others don’t. If you choose to use rhyme in a poem, here are some rhyme patterns you can play with.

Task: In the poem “The Dawn Wind,” find the ‘a’ rhymes and the ‘b’ rhymes. Write or say the rhyming words in the order they appear.

The Dawn Wind

At two o’clock in the morning, if you open your window and listen,You will hear the feet of the wind that is going to call the sun.And the trees in the shadow rustle and trees in the moonlight glisten,And though it is deep, dark night, you feel that the night is done.

The rhyme pattern in “The Dawn Wind” is called abab. This is -

Task:Make up a rhyme pattern. Jot down some lines for a poem.See if you can make your poem fit the pattern. If the pattern doesn’t fit your ideas and word pictures, change to a pattern that does fit them. Remember that ideas and images are the most important parts of poems. Rhyme is what you add later, if you want.

Post-writing Strategies

1. Listen to one another’s poems. Let each one come to the front of the room and read his or her poem.
2. Display your poems on notice boards for other classes to view.
3. Collaborate with the computer teacher and have your class take the poems to the computer lab where you can type them and possibly illustrate them with computer art.
4. Have a poetry reading for the entire school at an assembly, or have a series of mini-readings where students present their poems to selected groups from other classes.
5. Make a booklet of students’ poems and put it in the library on a designated shelf for all student publications.

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