Monday, November 24, 2014

Why Do You Write Sad Poems?

Why do you write sad poems?

Defensive answer: I don't ONLY write sad poems. Did you see the one about how happiness comes hopping? Or the one about saying gross things at the dinner table? Funny stuff.  Seriously funny. Not sad. Not sad at all.

Self-conscious answer: Oh, no. That didn't make YOU sad, did it?  I'm so sorry. It's just that. . . no, seriously, I'm really really sorry.

Have had a lot of years to think about it answer: It makes me feel better. Seriously.

No Way

In a swirl of nothing
inhaling hours
of in between.
What mood is this?
Lost? Collapsed?
Left out? Just tired?
Leftover scraps
of expectation
now outgrown.
Of disappointments
Speech bubbles
of stifled screams.
Drifting clouds.
Unticketed dreams.

Writing a poem is a way to tuck sad feelings in, kiss them on the forehead, and turn the klieg lights out on them.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Pasir Ridge International School: "Eyes twinkling in sunshine"

What’s weird, conducts electricity, and is a good citizen?

The poets of Pasir Ridge International School in Balikpapan, Indonesia, of course!

Balikpapan is a strange sounding place populated by friendly and familiar faces.  Who could forget a mascot such as the one above? I even recognized some of the faces in the assembly.  Taller bodies, bigger feet, but the same smiles.  Michael and I were here 2 years ago and were pleased as papayas to be back in this special learning place. 

Pictured here is the reading space a middle school classroom, complete with pillows and plenty of books and space in which to stretch the mind and the legs.

In Theresa Marriott's 3/4 grade classroom, we tried our hands at personification and then performed close surgery on our drafts to pare them into more precise poetry.  During our second visit with her classroom we wrote definition poems about electricity where I learned that a circuit has to be closed and cannot be polka dots.

This year there are both a K-1 and 1-2 splits at PRIS.  We were lucky enough to spend two full hours with each class -- two full hours with beginning writers is an incredible opportunity for us as we are generally limited to one 30 or 40 minute writing session with this age group at a school.  Sometimes all we get is a drive-by where we share a few poems and then are hustled off.  But being a small school has some definite advantages, with class sizes of about 10, we had time to get serious about writing and get a little goofy afterwards.

In each class we introduced writing lessons from our book High Impact Writing Clinics that had originally been conceived for students in grades four and up.  But as this is a writing school, the kids were quick to engage as we first co-constructed poems, creating our own mentor text, and then wrote independently.  We wrote about feeling weird (why not?) and talked about how important a conclusion is in our writing.


eyes rolling
arms slapping  
body shaking
skin purpling
brain bubbling
feet wiggling
ears flapping

The best part is
I’m drooling on my desk

Weird 2

Eyes blinking
Mouth talking
Feet stomping
Arms shaking
Head wiggling
Body spinning
Knees skipping
Ears shaking
Lips growling

The best part is making a silly face.

After this writing adventure, we brainstormed what it means to be a good citizen, first co-constructing the bare bones of a poem using a refrain and then going back to add in vibrant details before taking our clip boards and writing on our own.

Special thanks to Principal Seamus Marriott for the invitation, the opportunities, and the yummy meals.

Surabaya International School

An umbrella, hats, a bug zapper and plenty of warm smiles – what else does a poet need in Indonesia?  Our (too short) visit to Surabaya International School was a blast. What a welcome!  They gave us all that we needed to feel at home and more. After a couple of assemblies, we were happy to join writers putting words on paper.  Michael and I split up to visit all grade levels.

Third Graders in Liene Leiskaine's class were just starting a unit on money and trade so we collaborated in small groups to write questioning poems based on a lesson in High Impact Writing Clinics.  What is money for?  Who invented it?  What will money be in the future. Are coins better than paper? At the end of class we shared our poems aloud. A true test of a successful visit (as far as I'm concerned) is if the kids are writing after we leave.  Guess what?  I received an email the next day from Liene with the following questioning poem that her student had written that night.  

By: Subin Park

Why is the earth a sphere, not a square?
How do we compare?
Who gets to create the nature and how?
Isn't it cute when a paw meets a paw?
Why is an ocean deep?
Why don't we see green sheep?
Why is the nature so green?
Why is the nature so adventures for me?

How cool is that?  Thank you Subin for extending the lesson and making me imagine paw meeting paw. And why indeed don't we see green sheep?????

Another primary class gave me a send off that made me cry.

In the upper grades we talked about how poems can be starter seeds for longer essays stories and essays.  We wrote "bump in the road" poems, which are really story poems about triumph.

And many many thanks to librarian Leslie Baker and her kindly and professional assistant (whose name I have no chance of spelling correctly) for the hours of work put into making the visit happen.  We move on leaving poems and friends behind.  Thank you, thank you, thank you my friends!