poetry

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17 Aug: What Does a Poem Mean?

I was in a poetry workshop where a talented poet wrote, “I had to burn my brother’s body in order to stay alive during the night.”

I responded, “Oh, how sweet; the brother sacrifices himself in order to keep the sister alive.”

My neighbor said, “No, that’s not it. She’s empowered. She killed her brother in order to take care of herself.”

The instructor said, “You can shorten this to ‘I burned my brother and lived off the warmth.’”

The writer said, “I have no brother. Everything in this poem is a lie.”

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05 Jul: How to Write Like a Kid Again

There is a flotilla of actual research that suggests kids already think like poets. They notice imagery, think in metaphors, and act as though everything is alive and has human consciousness, from their real pet frog to their stuffed giraffe. All I had to do was introduce a concept like “personification” or “metaphor” and let them dash away with their pens and paper into the happy land of kid speak. They would come back with Pulitzer Prize winning lines like, “Earth, do you enjoy spinning?” or, “I heard a caterpillar’s heart breaking when it turned into a butterfly.” When writing poems about science, one little girl wrote, “Pluto is not a planet. It is a tear the first astronaut cried when he saw our world spinning alone in space.”