Friday, April 6, 2012

Sense, Nonsense, and the Poetic Sense

I have spent the entire day working on a student anthology. Since I've started waking up super early - 5:30am - with Sal each day, it's amazing how much work I manage to accomplish before noon. Before 10! I feel like I've found these extra hidden hours of the day that only some people know about.

It's been a busy week, but a good one. I haven't been reading the blogs much or the news. Lowkey on the social networks. Busy with teaching a bunch of classes and now this weekend I'll be prepping for nine classes next week (yikes!). I think I'll be overlapping some of my lessons.

I continue to be surprised and impressed with what kids can write when you show them non-kid's poetry (by that I mean poetry written for children, not poetry by children). The third grade class I started this week had me over-preparing; I knew they would need a lot of structure and poem-language such as line and stanza. Most of them had never read or heard a non-rhyming poem before. We read different poems out loud, some written by professional poets and others by kids their age. Some with full sentences. Others were mostly fragments. One poem was just a big stanza. The others were in couplets, triplets and free verse. There were real words and invented words. There were beautiful poems and haunted poems and mighty poems and animal poems.

Their poems were amazing. Here is one of my favorite lines:

Have you ever felt / the riversfire the glow / the gleam


Whoa.

This poet made the word "riversfire" by borrowing from a technique we saw in an example poem. You create a word by putting together two real words to make a new compound word. The rest of the poem is just as beautiful and musical.

There were other student poems that were just as powerful. I swear, kids this age have poems in their skin. I wonder if the end of third grade is just the perfectly ripe age for poetry. They are still children in a way where they don't worry about being "cool" just yet. However, they are capable of some more sophisticated, metaphorical thinking. Puberty hasn't gotten them yet. Social cliques haven't ostracized individual kids yet. And when you show them a poem or two, they think, "oh, I can do that?" Then they take risks. Try something new.

That sense of freedom is familiar to me. I remember feeling that way when I read Dara Wier. I read her poems and said, "oh, I can do that?" It's okay to write strange and nonsensical poems. Yet, I found sense in them, in their music, patterns, repeated images. Not a thinking sense, but a poetic sense.

That's what I think this age group still has - their natural poetic senses haven't been stolen yet. Our culture is so hard on adolescents, so much pressure to fit in, succeed, look good, be cool. But pre-tweens are mostly unaware of that pressure still.

I can't wait to read what they write next.
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