Tag Archives: student poems

‘Chickens waste heroic dreams’: Creating and revising poems in class

After my students made poems using the Poetry Bingo technique, I modeled a poetry-revision method. I led a class discussion-and-creation session in which we took four 10-word poems and brainstormed several new two-word phrases from those. We grouped some of these phrases into sentences, calling that a new poem. Then I read that poem aloud to the class and I asked particular students which words or lines they liked least (based on their feelings about the sounds or images or anything else about the words). We’d swap those out with others of the brainstormed phrases, or sometimes we looked up words randomly by my opening a book to a random page, putting my finger on a page, and taking whatever word(s) my finger pointed to. We subbed in the new word(s) and read the poem again and tried new change-outs; we did this for 20-30 minutes over two days’ class periods. We started with words that were joined almost accidentally, without intending any particular meanings, and we ended up with texts that seemed to grow almost by themselves into original poems. We said things we never would have thought to say. Here’s what resulted:

 

Sorry water mourns

the judge’s darkest promise.

The gods’ governors trade censors

for groaning temptations.

Earth signs glass bones

with sleeping wings.

Its death agonized

over ancient emotions.

— CW1, 2nd hour, Spring 2019

 

Chickens waste

heroic dreams.

Flat mountains

remain conscious.

Inside a palate, thick breezes

darken corrupt influences.

A blinded witness

frees persimmons.

— CW1, 3rd hour, Spring 2019

 

White rains white on sheets

— perhaps.

Hands expect joy to watch.

Dominion Friday records a man

while silence becomes action.

— CW1, 10th hour, Spring 2019

Note: Poems created by this method may seem abstract and be structured more by juxtaposition than by narrative, of course. This seems to be the kind of poem I prefer, poems that are mental palate-cleansers, poems that startle my mind out of conventional thought, and this is the kind of poetry-sensibility by which I teach the writing of poems. I’m not saying this is the only kind of poetry that’s valuable, but I do want to wake my students from their preconceived notions of what poems can be.

Poems: Exquisite Corpse method

In my high school creative writing class, we write poems in the exquisite corpse fashion, this way:

In class: Each student gets a piece of ruled paper and a piece of scratch paper (for covering up the writing on the ruled sheet).  On the ruled sheet, they write some random 4-word phrase, putting the 4th word on the following line, as such:

all the best

luck

And then they cover up the first line, revealing only “luck,” as they pass the sheets to the person next to them (while students are in a circle).  The next student sees ONLY the last word – in this example,  “luck” — and adds to it:

 luck OF THE IRISH

WHO

and then covers up everything on the sheet except the word on the new line, “WHO,” and so on, around the room, for about 20 minutes.  At the end, students remove the cover sheet and read the entire thing like a continuous poem, or maybe they just pull out some unique lines.   It can lead to some interesting lines of potential poems.

We then use these Exquisite Corpse sheets to write additional poems: 

Poems #1 & #2: Take words and phrases from your Exquisite Corpse sheet and combine these into a poem freewrite. Minimum 25 words.  Do this twice.

Poem #3: Write down the words from a column of words on that sheet.  Write 20 words as a poem.

Poem #4: Take the words from #3 and replace each word with a word that sounds like it.  Write as a poem.

In this post, there are some samples taken from Exquisite Corpse poems created in my classes this semester.