Monday, April 16, 2018

A Found Poem Using Psalm 91



 In my previous two blogs for the month of April about poetry, I gave two suggestions: trying your hand with a “found poem” and imitating a favorite poem or poet by copying one example and substituting its form with your own words to practice “writing a better poem.”

To illustrate how a found poem works, I took a favorite Psalm from the Bible and did the following:
1.     I copied words, phrases, or verses from the psalm that I really loved unto a sheet of paper, one example per line, then I cut them into movable pieces with a pair of scissors.
2.    In a found poem, you are not allowed to add or change ANYTHING; you can only work with the words, phrases, or verses you have chosen. You cannot punctuate differently or add punctuation where it might be needed, but you can repeat words, phrases, or verses to create a refrain or make transitions or to emphasize images.  It will look very “modern.”
3.    I took my bits of paper and moved them into different positions, paring phrases down to single words if necessary and creating line breaks where I wanted.   
It is always best to show an example so below is my version of Psalm 91. I hope it inspires you to try your hand at a found poem. Happy April is Poetry Month!

Psalm 91: I Will Be With You
I will protect those who know my name
You will not fear the terror of the night
I will be with them
When they call me, I will answer them
command angels
                     find refuge
                     bear you up
          no evil shall befall you
guard you in all ways
                     from the snare of the fowler
You will tread on the lion and the adder
You will not fear the terror of the night.


Monday, April 9, 2018

Writing a Better Poem



Do you want to learn how to write a better poem?
1.     Read poetry.  Immerse yourself in it.  Find and sift through until you find the poets and the poems you like and admire.
2.    Imitate their poems.  I do not advocate plagiarism; I advocate practice and study.  Imbue yourself in the form, the spacing, the use of line and rhythm – all the elements that interest you. 
3.    Copy your poems into a journal or notebook, or copy and paste it into a digital folder, and also keep ideas, lines from favorite poems, figurative language, vocabulary, pictures, and practice, practice, practice.  Keep finished and unfinished poems in one, easily accessible place.
4.    Hunt, search, research for new poets and poetry.  No need to spend money.  Use libraries, bookstores, the Internet.  Use recommendations from Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes and Noble.  Remember there are thousands of novels available, but we only read the few genres we like; likewise, with poetry, there are thousands of poets and poetry out there waiting to be discovered, read, and enjoyed.
5.    Join a group of poets who write, share, and critique each other’s work.  So much can be learned from those who understand the genre best.
Looking for ideas? Try:
1.    Julia Alvarez.  Homecoming
2.    Niki Giovanni. The Women and the Men
3.    Trinidad Sanchez, Jr. Why Am I So Brown?
4.    Tupac Shakur. The Rose That Grew from Concrete.
5.    Alice Walker.  Revolutionary Petunias.

Monday, April 2, 2018

April is Poetry Month: THE Found Poem


One of my favorite teaching units when teaching middle and high school students was The Poetry Unit.  
The kids would groan; the poet beaten out of them in elementary school, what with haikus, and tankas, and diamantes forced upon them by well-meaning teachers, year after year.
I allayed their fears, promising them I would take their concerns to heart and maybe teach them something new, something innovative, something that would change their minds about April is Poetry Month that would not be too painful.
I started off by brainstorming on the white board everything everyone knew already about poetry. 
“It rhymes.”
“It sometimes doesn’t rhyme.”
“It’s short.”
“It’s sometimes long.”
“It follows conventions.”
“It sometimes breaks conventions and rules.”
And so it went until we had covered the white board with everything everyone offered.  During lulls, I would ask questions to get more ideas.
“Why do some poems rhyme and others don’t?”
“How does a short poem get its message across?”
“What are some poetic conventions?” and if that didn’t work: “What are some rules you have seen a poet break?”
When the white board was covered with all of their ideas, I showed them a quick way to write Poem #1 (and copy notes off the board).
THE FOUND POEM
Take a sheet of paper and number 1-20, skipping lines in between your numbers.
Copy twenty ideas from the white board that stand out to you the most.  Maybe they are new ideas or contradicting ideas or ideas that you feel a need to remember most. At this point just copy twenty ideas, one per line. Copy them exactly as written on the board. 
Do Not Change or Add Anything.
When you are done, double check that you chose the twenty ideas you want to remember the most about today’s lesson. Scratch out one you do not want to keep and replace it with one you do want to keep.
Read your list of twenty.
Reorder them in any fashion you prefer; renumber the list out in the margin: most important to least, or least important to most, or mix one of each per line, or short line followed by a long one, or the reverse, clump together in stanzas, or clumped together in stanzas but the final line ending each stanza has the most importance.
Remember a poem does NOT have to rhyme, so have fun with this.
This is your rough draft, so when you are ready, rewrite (or if working on a laptop, move) your lines into their new positions, adding spaces between lines or stanzas.
When finished, there should be twenty “lines.”
Some follow up lessons to this were lessons on enjambment, refrain, and punctuation, but one look at their finished products always lend themselves to other ideas.
HAPPY APRIL IS POETRY MONTH.