From The Time is Now weekly writing prompt:
This week, listen to a poem new to you–by a contemporary poet or a bygone poet–and jot down the words, phrases, and images that are most striking or memorable to you. Then write your own poem inspired by this list of words. How do you transform someone else’s poetic intuition and choices into a work that demonstrates your personal idiosyncrasies and specific aesthetic sense?
The word Listen caught my attention in this prompt. How does listening change your perspective? Reading and collecting words is easy. Would listening work as well?
One of my favorite poets is Naomi Shihab Nye. I’ve had the privilege of seeing her live and meeting her in a workshop setting. But this is a new school year, and I hadn’t brought her voice into the room yet. I selected a video from the Dodge Poetry Festival, one I had actually attended, so I could tell the kids, “I was there!” If you haven’t heard this poem, it is hilarious and much more so from the actual voice of Naomi Shihab Nye. She wrote things her 2-3 year-old-son actually said.
I instructed my students to collect words while they listened. Some lists were long. Others had nothing. So I asked the ones who wrote to share their words. “If you don’t have any words, you can steal these.”
I love this kind of writing prompt because you never know where the words will take you. A few of the students wrote their own random poems, a list of nonsensical sentences. This was OK with me because the intent of the experience was to hear poetry and play with language. We don’t play enough with words. Poetry is playing. You can read all of the poems on this padlet.
I want to share a few here also. My poem is written for that student who constantly sings aloud in the classroom. You know the ones who have a beat to their step.
Music leaps into her ears
down to her toes.
Her feet gallop across the floor.
Notes fill the cup,
spill over her lips
like dictionaries for songs.
I would miss her singing.
I would miss her jumping feet.
I would miss loving her.
Erin is only in 4th grade. When I read her poem, which she wrote covering two white boards, I told her she had the wisdom of a 65 year old. I also told her that she created a question/ answer form in her poem.
What is love?
Love is when you want a person to be your Valentine
so bad you want to gallop away with them.
What is love like?
Love is like a swing.
It can bring you up
or take you down.
Is love hard?
Love is like a peanut,
hard on the outside
but sweet on the inside.
What can love do to you?
Love can make you talk gibberish.
Love can make you dance the night away to soulful music.
What can love feel like?
Love can feel hard like a pecan cookie
or be soft like an ooey, gooey chocolate chip cookie.
What can love make you feel like?
Love can make you feel
like you are close by your
Valentine when you are truly
one thousand miles apart.
Love can be the best
or worst thing in the world.
–Erin, 4th grade
Emily is also one who is wise beyond her years. She picked up on Naomi’s opening when she said that we are all born poets, just some of us keep it up.
It is hard being a person
But, living is a gift that is given,
and all metal was liquid first,
and all people have to find their way to be.
Everyone is born with poetry,
but not all people stick with it.
You know when you find your thing
when you have music in your legs
and jazz in your toes.
–Emily, 5th grade