• Open your poetry notebook.
• Start on a new page.
• Follow my directions.
• It’s okay to ask questions.
Poems are not
Baron Wormser & David Capella
A Surge of Language
Exercise in the Cemetery
At dusk I walk up and down
among the rows of the dead.
What do the thoughts I think
have to do with another living being?
In the eastern sky, blue-green as a bird’s egg,
a cloud with a neck like a goose
swims achingly toward the zenith.
W&C’s Ten questions to ask about words.
• What word intrigues you the most?
• Is there a word that confuses you?
• What word surprises you?
• What word seems metaphorical?
• Is there a word that seems unnecessary?
• What word is most important?
• What is the most physical word in the poem?
• What is the most specific word in the poem?
• What is the strongest sound word in the poem?
• What is the most dynamic verb in the poem?
Every poem is a prompt.
• Dictate the poem.
• Discuss the poem
• Examine the structure line by line.
• Assign a prompt that uses the same/
W& C’s Creativity Guidelines
1. Give the task a chance.
2. Feel free to discard.
3. Don’t denigrate your effort.
4. Share with others (once you feel
5. Don’t worry about what should be
because there is no should be.
Prompt for our poem.
• Write a poem that’s 3 sentences long.
– The FIRST sentence sets the setting
– The SECOND sentence asks a question.
– The THIRD sentence gives us an image from
– For YOU: being at ISACS.
– For your kids: lunch room, lockers, etc.
The first poem I dictate:
In a Station of the Metro
The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough.
3 Great Poetry Activities
1. Compare narrative to lyrical
– A narrative poem is a poem that tells a story.
– A lyrical poem portrays feelings,
perceptions, or state of mind.
Ed by Louis Simpson
Ed was in love with a cocktail waitress,
but Ed’s family, and his friends,
didn’t approve. So he broke it off.
He married a respectable woman
who played the piano. She played well
to have been a professional.
Ed’s wife left him…
Years later, at a family gathering
Ed got drunk and made a fool of himself.
He said, “I should have married Doreen.”
“Well,” they said, “why didn’t you?”
#2: Teach poetic forms
• A lyric poem that focuses on one object
or one subject.
• Pablo Neruda’s Odes to Common Things
is an invaluable resource.
Teaching and writing Odes
• Read a selection of contemporary odes.
• If you think your kids are up to it,
compare/contrast to a classical ode such
as Keats’ Ode on a Grecian Urn.
• Use Nancie Atwell’s tips for
Tips for Neruda-esque Odes
• Choose a subject you have strong feelings
• Describe the subject inside and out.
• Exaggerate its admirable qualities.
• Tap all 5 senses.
• Use metaphors and similies.
• Directly address the subject of the ode.
• Balance your feelings with description.
• Keep the lines short.
• Choose strong words.
from Ode to a pair of scissors
you are as polished as a knight’s
Another fun form: Sestina
• The sestina is quot;song of sixes,quot; a medieval
verse form of six six-line stanzas, in
which the poet repeats six end-words in
a prescribed order, reintroducing the six
repeated words (in any order) in a
closing three line envoy.
• Example: Elizabeth Bishop’s Sestina.
• Students can try a tritina.
• 3 repeating end words
• 4 total stanzas
– 3 lines each in the first 3 stanzas:
– Last stanza is one line that uses each word.
#3: Photograph Poems
• From John O’Conner’s Wordplaygrounds
• Students bring in a picture that has
• Ask students to “carefully descibe the
photo, describing everything in the
Add drama to the poem
• “Write about what is NOT in the frame:
the photographer, missing signs of the
setting, the occasion, an important
person who is not pictured.”
• “your poem should reconcile or explain
why the contents of the frame do not
contain all the information necessary to
understand the event fully.”
Please contact me!
• Jennifer Nabers
• Jennifer.nabers@gmail. com or