Monday, April 11, 2016

Embarrassed? Frightened? Write a Poem!

Poetry is a great outlet for expressing strong emotions. The Poetry Friday Anthologies are a wonderful source for poems about first day jitters, disappointments, fears, and other emotional moments students experience on a daily basis. I’d like to share two poems I wrote that your students could use as models to write about their own feelings.

“Embarrassed” appeared in The Poetry Friday Anthology, K-5 Edition,2012.

In this poem, I use food images to describe the feeling of being embarrassed after saying the wrong thing. I say “Words spilled like soda/Now there’s a stain.” Sometimes things slip from our mouths in a sloppy way we didn’t intend. It can feel like being a sloppy eater and having potato chips end up in your hair.

The use of images to describe one’s feelings is a powerful tool in writing, particularly in poetry. Ask your student to think of an embarrassing moment. It can be a time when they said something they were sorry for or it could simply be a time when they dropped something or lost their balance in front of someone they wanted to impress. Can they think of an image to describe their feelings? Can they compare it to another situation or object readers will immediately identify with?

Begin with a freewrite, asking your students to describe the situation in prose, with as many metaphors or similes that come to mind. Freewrites give writers the opportunity to find their images first before trying to rhyme or condense their thoughts into a poem. Sometimes, writers choose words only because they rhyme. Doing a freewrite first can help writers avoid this pitfall.

Another strong emotion is fear. Fear of homework. Fear of thunder. Fear of being embarrassed. These poems, “The Math Beast” and “Thunder” appeared in Balloon Lit Journal, August 2015.

In “The Math Beast” I compared math homework and my fear of failing to a tiger roaring in a cage. In “Thunder” I compared the frightening sound of a storm to a stampede of buffalos on the roof.

Ask your students to write about something they fear. Storms? Tests? The High Dive? Monsters? Can they compare their fear to something else?

Once again, begin with a prose freewrite, encouraging your students to identify images before they try to write a poem. Poetry should contain at least one clear picture for the reader and having one in mind before you start is very helpful.

There are so many emotions to write about. Encourage your students to explore emotional terrains and describe their feelings in concrete images.

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