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College Writing 

"The beauty that six or seven words can bring together makes the whole brain sing."

Robert Bly

The goal of the poetry activities in College Writing is not necessarily to develop great poets or poems, although that would be a nice bonus, but to increase students' awareness of and attention to language, rhythm, sound, concision and presentation.  This will improve their essays, stories and other pieces.  Usually along the way most students increase their appreciation of poetry or at least some poems and write a few "good" poems of their own.

"Poetry is the voice of the soul, whispering, celebrating, singing even."   - Carolyn Forche

We will begin many poems in class.  Write rough drafts in your journal.  Remember that the more drafts you have the more likely you are to have a poem worth revising.  Use the poems presented in class and your own favorites for poetry ideas and formats.  You do not need to reinvent poetry and may use the work of others for ideas.  Remember to credit the poem that inspired you.  Write many poems-starts in your journal.  When in doubt write a poem.

Share drafts with friends and classmates even before we confer in class.  We are writing for an audience, so your poem must work for someone besides the author.  Use the in-class conferences to help you with specific problems.  Remember you must be consistent with your mechanics in a poem.  Remember the characteristics of a poem we talk about in class (rhythm, conciseness, imagery, sensory details, metaphor and other figurative language, fresh/no cliches, consistent mechanics, unifying emotion, placement on the page, etc.)
"Poetry presents the thing in order to convey the feeling.  It should be precise about the thing and reticent about the feeling, for as soon as the mind responds and connects with the thing the feeling shows in the words; this is how poetry enters deeply into us.  If the poet presents directly feelings which overwhelm him, and keeps nothing back to linger as an aftertaste, he stirs us superficially; he cannot start the hands and feet involuntarily waving and tapping in time, far less strengthen morality and refine culture, set heaven and earth in motion and call up the spirits!"
Wei T’ai (eleventh century)

from Poems of the Late T’ang  translated by A. C. Graham


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Poetry Ideas
  • Describe an experience where something unintended was learned. ("My Physics Teacher")/Write a less-than-sincere apology for giving into a temptation.  Using simple, everyday language.  ("This is Just to Say")  Combine ideas from both poems into your own.  ("Belated Apology")
  • Write a litany or a one line poem
  • Describe an experience with nature which changed you or made you feel connected with nature.  ("Traveling Through the Dark", "Moth", "A Blessing")
  • Write an observation poem  ("The Fish"/"Poem")
  • Journal entry: 10 description using metaphor and share/discuss in class
  • Write a poem that lets the image do the work (See Wei T'ai quote and Imagists' poems)
  • Write a poem to mark an occasion.  ("Stop all the clocks....")/Write poem about a political issue from an individual perspective. ("The Colonel",  "Bosnia Tune")
  • Write a poem using specific or extended metaphors ("Facing It"  "You and I are Disappearing")
  • Write a poem based on outdoor observations
  • Write a poem that freewrites or freethinks about a word or an idea.  ("Thesaurus", "Arithmetic")
  • Write some Haikus or Lokus
  • Write a poem that plays with line breaks and spacing
  • Write a circular, and incremental & a dialectical poem
  • Write a poem with a deliberate shape
  • Activity: describe a place using rich sensory language.   ("Root Cellar")
  • Describe an early childhood memory from a child's perspective when "everything is as it should be". ("Homestead Park")
  • Write a poem in Skeltonic Verse & Anglo Saxon Alliterative Meter
  • Write a poem about or to poetry
  •  Generate a list of favorite words and form them into a poem
  •  Write a poem in the voice of another person or creature
  •  Write a sestina or a sonnet
  •  Write a poem with pre-set line lengths and arbitrary features ( Dream/Confession or pajamas/birdbath)
  •  Write a villanelle or a pantoon
  •  Write a found or sound poem


    "Everything is famous if you notice it." - Naomi Shihab Nye

    Length: One page

    Due Dates: One typed poem November 8 and one typed poem January 9

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