Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words.
I was reading the dictionary. I thought it was a poem about everything.
We have been writing a lot of poetry lately in my second grade classroom. It seems to me that children are pretty fearless at writing poetry – unlike a lot of grown-ups. We adults have some hang-ups about written language. Does it sound right? Does it feel right? Is it conventional enough? Does it reveal too much? At this point in our school year, most children don’t have those same inhibitions. They write for fun. They write to make sense of things. They write to record ideas and share thoughts.
And we write a LOT. That is one of the biggest changes in the class since the beginning of the year. When I ask the children to write about what they have read in their reading logs – they do. Every day. When I ask them to have a written conversation with a classmate – they do. When I ask them to try out a new form of poetry, to write a book or movie review, to write a letter thanking a docent on a field trip – they do. No whining or complaining. No one says, “I just can’t think of anything to say!” Sure, writing mechanics are still developing, but everyone has become much more fluent and thoughtful writers.
A recent example is when I shared a poem by George Ella Lyon called “Where I’m From”...
...I'm from fudge and eyeglasses,
from Imogene and Alafair.
I'm from the know-it-alls and the pass-it-ons,
from Perk up! and Pipe down!...
I asked the children to write one of their own “Where I’m From” poems and everyone set to work. It didn’t take long for before the children were saying, “Can I read you mine?” and “Listen to this.” We circled up and everyone shared a line or two as we went around the circle. The result was a class poem that was really beautiful. The visitors to our classroom that day were amazed by the fluency and word choice. I was too. I will try to duplicate the poem by sharing bits from all of them. This won’t capture the moment of us creating our classroom poem together, but it may come close.
I am from playing games on game night with my family
I am from love and hope
I am from a world of imagination.
I am from loving to dance and loving to sing
I am alive and in shape, ready to do things
I am from fishing with my dad and brother
I am from two grandmas and one that cooks good food and dessert
I am from God in my heart
I am from riding bikes and rescuing dogs
I am from music – I am from love
I am from the ball up and down the court
I am from two annoying and cute and funny sisters
I am from a pastor – I am from a diva
and a girly girl
and a girly girl
I am from the beautiful blue skies and the history of family members
I am from cakes and cookies – a baker I am from
I am from one athletic father and one amazing mom
I am from a black and white border collie, flashing here and there
I am from Earth, sports, friends, family I am from nice and loving parents
I am from a world of peace and a world
filled with friends
filled with friends
I am from a Jewish family
Maybe you had to be there, but I think most of the kids feel the power of writing poems. I tried my hand at a "Where I'm From" poem too. I took myself back to my second grade memories, big family, catholic school, busy suburban neighborhood. 1964. Merrillville, Indiana - just outside of Gary. It felt good to remember, to write.
I am from Ruck and Jack
and a mess of kids
I am from tickling and teasing
and never having to look for a playmate
I am from the suburbs and clotheslines
and tincan telephones
I am from a long walk to school with
best friends and brothers
I am from 3 channels on TV
and an antenna on the roof
From outdoor summer days and catching snakes
and tadpoles, and lizards, and bugs
From a neighborhood of friends and plenty to do
I am from backyard baseball and soccer and
darknight kick the can
From kites with knotted rag tails and fierce blue skies
I am from forts built in Maysacks Woods and
Sister Rachel Marie and penmanship
I am from crickets and cicadas and itchy mosquitos
I am from the smell of adult cigars
and motor oil and fresh cut grass
From blowing on dandelion heads and pulling on wishbones
I am from 9 people sitting around a too small table
and "Bless us oh Lord and these thy gifts..."
I am from dogbites and bee stings
and hazy stars and firefly nights
I can't tell you how good it felt to write this. I brought me back, you know? It's not great. It's not art. It's just where I'm from.