KidPoWriMo Day 20 ~ A Poetic Adventure

July 20th is the anniversary of one of the biggest adventures in American and human history: the 1969 Apollo 11 Lunar Landing. As the first human to step onto the surface of the moon, Neil Armstrong spoke the famous words: “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”. Watch the video below to hear them as recorded on that day. I consider these and many other phrases from history to be poetic.

Because of television cameras and other technology, people around the world were able to watch these words shortly after they were spoken. Those who watched couldn’t travel to the moon. Most people alive today will never visit the moon, but when they read or hear these words, they are reminded that the moon is now someplace a human can go.

Have you been on an adventure? Whether you have traveled to a faraway land or to a part of your neighborhood you just discovered, the trip can be the start of your own poetic adventure. And of course, you can travel in your imagination to places you want to go poetically.

One of my poetic adventures happened when I wrote a poem about someone who had many troubles. In fact, she had so many, she was in the news. Although I felt sorry for her situation, I was not in danger of being in the exact same situation she was. The poem I wrote was my way of making sure I never walked  in her shoes and an attempt to help someone else who might.

As I imagined what an average day was like for her,  I wrote down what I thought would happen when no one else was around. I thought about what made her feel afraid and what might make things worse or better in her life.  Finally, I wrote the words I wished she would have said that could have changed her path.

The poem was written in the “first person”. That means I wrote it as if the events happening in my poem were happening to me.

Poetic phrase of the day: “first person” (click here to read the definition on Merriam-Webster’s Word Central)

You may have guessed that this was not a happy poem. I was nervous about other people reading it. I would let only one person read it at a time. Only people I trusted were allowed to look at it. When I was invited to read poetry to an audience, I gathered the courage to include this poem in my presentation. After I read it, a couple of people came to me and shared how the poem helped them because they had the same problems as the woman in the news who inspired my poem.

This was a long time ago, when people who had these kinds of problems usually did not talk about them, and many people had these same kinds of problems. When I wrote my poem, the people who heard it felt like they could talk about it and finally make things better.

I share this story to say that a poetic adventure can be a place you don’t want to go as well as somewhere you want to go. Your poetic adventure may be about a visit to a relative you’ve never met who lives in another state. Or, it could be about a new friend who is recovering from an accident and has to use a wheelchair.

PROMPT: Think of a situation you want (or don’t want) to have in your life. Or, think about a place you have never visited. Write about your imaginary adventure to (or away from) that place or situation.

FOR PARENTS OF YOUNGER CHILDREN: Help your child(ren) with a wish list for what they want for their next birthday or as a Christmas (or other holiday) gift. Ask them to choose their favorite thing from this list. Help them speak in the first person about this thing they do not yet have. Ask them what they would do or say if they had it right now. Use some of the things your child(ren) learned from earlier in the month to make an adventure poem.

NOTE: Kids may surprise parents and others when making these lists. You may be expecting them to fill it with toys and things for themselves, when they shock you and add something from their heart. That is the beginning of a wonderful poem that you and your child(ren) will cherrish and share with future generations.

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KidPoWriMo Day 19 ~ Love Poems

With so many love poems in the world and more being written everyday, I would never say that I am an expert at writing them. I can only share my own experiences writing them. Specifically, my experience is with writing wedding poems. When my friends get engaged, I am usually asked to write a poem for the wedding. One person, I did not know once asked me to write her wedding poem. When I found out who she was, a multiple best-selling author, I was blown away! I enjoyed the whole experience very much, from interviewing the author-bride, to writing the poem and then reciting it at the wedding.

Love poems can be about a love between people, but it doesn’t have to be about people who are getting married. It can be about mother and child, brother and sister, friends, even someone you admire from far away, like a favorite movie star, singer or celebrity. If you have a pet, a hobby or a special place you love to visit, almost anything can be the topic of a love poem. Many poets have written “un-love” poems about things they don’t love.

If your love poem is not coming from your imagination or personal experience, you may need to find out more information about your subjects. When I write wedding poems, I interview the bride and groom, if possible. I use key phrases and details from the interview in the poem. Historical information from before the couple met is often helpful. Sometimes, I get an impression from how they say what they say, and often from some of the things they don’t say.

Poetic word of the day: “couplet” (click here to read the definition of couplet on YourDictionary.com)

Couplets are lines of about the same length that have a similar rhythm and often rhyme. I especially enjoy writing couplets in my love or wedding poems. Iambic pentameter is a good tool to use to give the lines in your couplets a matching rhythm.

PROMPT: Write a love poem about your love or someone else’s love; use couplets. If writing for someone else, consider giving the finished poem as a gift to them.

My personal example:

Hugs and a snack pack were waiting at three. 

That’s how my mother showed me she loved me.

Homework together and reading at four.

We played outside til dad came through the door.

These are my two couplets to start my poem. They’re not perfect iambic pentameter, but they are a start. I can edit them later if I like.

FOR PARENTS OF YOUNGER CHILDREN: Younger children might do well to write a love poem for a favorite toy or other item. Let your child(ren) talk about why they love what they love. Encourage them to find rhyming words and to use a poetic device. Have them finish a sentence: “You love Teddy because… ______.” When you play with Teddy, _________.” Write down the answers.

I offer this post commemorating what would have been the 60th anniversary of  my parent’s marriage on July 19th.

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KidPoWriMo Day 18 ~ Template Poem

I knew my birthday week would be a challenge as I tried to balance KidPoWriMo with the additional things added to my week.

Still, I am moving forward.

One way of getting started with writing a new poem is to use another poem as a template. It can be any poem. If you pick a poem you like, you will probably enjoy taking it apart and putting a new poem together as you look at each piece. If you pick a poem you don’t like, you are likely to improve it when you use it to create a new poem.

Poetic word of the day: “template” (click here to read the definition on Word Central)

I learned about template poems from a poet who was a guest at my poetry event. She explained it like this: “Take each word of the poem and substitute it for another word by its part of speech.” Where you read a noun, replace it with another noun. Do the same thing for adjectives, verbs, prepositions, adverbs, pronouns, etc.

Once you have finished substituting words, you will have a completely new and original poem. But, it may need more work. Poetic devices that worked in the first poem might be lost as you create the second poem. Sometimes, a poet may be so inspired by one line of template writing, an idea will take the poem in a different direction away from the template poem. If so, go with it. The template exercise works if you only re-write a line or two or if you revise the whole poem.

My  cousin once asked me for a birthday poem. I chose “Phenomenal Woman” by Maya Angelou as my template. I did not go word for word throughout the poem, but I used the same pattern of phrases. When I needed to write more, I just repeated a pattern. When a part of the poem did not fit what I was doing, I didn’t use it. The finished poem was about my cousin (a man) and it was funny (especially since he is known to be rather serious most of the time)!

PROMPT: Write a template poem using part or all of a poem found on-line. Build a word list as you write.

Let us start one together:

Read Emily Dickinson’s poem: “Hope is the thing with feathers” on PoemHunter.com.

The first line is the title of the poem. The first word is a noun and it can be substituted with many other words: “fear, love, hate, anger, cheer, kindness, vision, etc.” The next word is a verb. I could use the phrase “is a thing” again, but I really want to choose other words: “has, gives, takes, moves, claims, burns, builds, adds, etc.” The article “the” can be replaced with “a” or “an” if I must replace it, and I believe I must. The next word is another noun, “sickness, burden, place, duty, song, pebble, etc. The next word is a preposition which I will replace “with”: “for, to, above, etc.” Finally the line ends with another noun: “medicine, cowards, fish, houseplants, horses, daylight, water, ground.”

Using the words I listed so far, I can create dozens of lines from the template. Not all combinations will make sense. Here are a few:

1. Fear burns a place for cowards.

2. Hate takes a sickness to medicine.

3. Love moves a burden above ground.

All have poetic potential. And I am inspired to create a complete poem from them. I could go on and write templates of more of the poem or write on my own from one of the lines I just pieced together.

Now that you have started, go ahead and finish your poem in a way you prefer.

FOR PARENTS OF YOUNGER CHILDREN: Try substituting a couple of words from your child’s favorite nursery rhyme. “Twinkle, twinkle, little star” might become “Sprinkle, sprinkle, happy cake” or “Sparkle, sparkle dancing ______” (you fill in the blank). As you go to each word, ask your child(ren) to come up with a replacement in context. When you are substituting a verb, ask a question like this: “What else would the little star do?”  When substituting an adjective, ask “What kind of…” or “What color ____ is it?”. If your child(ren) get inspired and imagination takes you away from the template, let it happen.

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KidPoWriMo Day 17 ~ Tanka

Our Wednesday haiku adventures have led us first to 5-7-5 (17 syllable haiku) and then to six word haiku. I would rather not use the word “haiku” to describe poems that are much larger than 17 syllables because there are larger forms of poetry. These poems could fit into these other descriptions. Tanka is one of these slightly larger poetic forms.

Poetic word of the day: tanka (click here to see this word defined on Dictionary.com)

The easiest way to describe tanka is to add two 7-syllable lines to the American 5-7-5 haiku format.

So, you will have five lines and the syllables per line will be in this order: 5-7-5-7-7.

Although this is 14 syllables larger than haiku and you get to say almost twice as much as you can say in a 5-7-5 haiku, I encourage you to make the most of all the syllables you have just as you would be when writing haiku.

If you have any haiku that you think need more words to be the poem you want it to be, try remixing it into a tanka.

You may start by moving the lines around. The five syllable lines can switch places and the seven syllable line can go in one of three places in the tanka. You may also add two syllables to one or both of the five syllable lines. Then once you write whatever lines are missing, you will have a tanka.

Let’s go through this creative process together. I will create as I write.

PROMPT: Write a tanka poem by remixing an existing haiku by you or someone else.

I am going to remix a 4-line haiku poem entitled “Bad Morning” by Langston Hughes into my own tanka (the title and author’s name link to the poem on the All Poetry site). I like his haiku because he sneaked in a rhyme.

Pick your haiku or write one to get started.

Here is my version of Langston Hughes’ 17 syllables. I have reworked them into 3 lines:

(5) Oh, Lord have mercy!

(7) I’m sitting here frustrated

(5) Shoes are mis-mated.

Next, I will write an original haiku poem inspired by this one:

(5) No tissues in sight,

(7) I need to suppress a sneeze!

(5) Heaven help me please!

by Cheryl Crockett inspired by Langston Hughes’ “Bad Morning”

Notice, my haiku has a different topic and is unique and original.

Next, I can take take one or both of my 5 syllable lines and make them into 7 syllables by adding two.

(7) THERE ARE no tissues in sight

(7) OH LET heaven help me please!

As I build my tanka, I can use these lines in either of their 5 or 7 syllable forms, edit them again or write new lines.

Now, my haiku has a complete message, but as a tanka, it needs more information. I will think about other things that accompany a sneeze and a need for tissues or a substitute for tissues. This will help me create a word list that I can expand into phrases.

(1) Cold

(1) Flu

(1) Dust

(2) Shirt sleeve

(2) Paper

(2) Towels

(2) Pollen

(2) Disease

(3) Allergies

(3) Infection

(3) Contagious

(4) Toilet tissue

Now I can finish my tanka by expanding my haiku:

(5) Pollen fills my lungs.

(7) There are no tissues in sight.

(5) But with all my might,

(7) I need to suppress a sneeze!

(7) Oh, let heaven help me please!

by Cheryl Crockett

How did your tanka develop? If you would like to share it, feel free to do so as a comment below this post.

FOR PARENTS OF YOUNGER CHILDREN:  Read some haiku that you have written using the prompts earlier during #KidPoWriMo, or find some on the internet. You can do this by typing “HAIKU” into your favorite search engine. Talk to your child(ren) about each haiku and ask them what else might have happened before, during or after the story or message in the haiku. Help your child(ren) to create 7 syllable lines based on the details they imagine. Add these lines to the haiku to make a tanka.

With each of these exercises, because your children may need help writing from an older person, make sure to tell them that you are “making poetry together“. This tradition will stay with them and they will understand that poetry is important to you and it will become important to them, too.

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KidPoWriMo Day 14 ~ Iambic Pentameter

Get your iambs and feet ready. We are putting them together again to make pentameter.

That sounds like something that’s hard to do. It just sounds hard. Pentameter is easy.

And since we worked with iambs that were stressed on the even numbered  syllables the last time we discussed iambs, we will switch it this time.

We will put the stresses on the odd numbered syllables this time. And we will combine words with more than two syllables to create iambic phrases and sentences.

Poetic word of the day: “pentameter” (click here to see the definition on Merriam-Webster’s Word Central)

When you hear the word “pentameter”, does it make you think of a number? There is a famous government building that has a name that begins the same way.

If you know the name of this building, you probably can tell me what is different about it (see below)

Back to making pentameter. When we started with iambs, we put three feet together. We returned and put four together. Pentameter happens when we put five iambs (or feet) together.

QUICK MATH QUESTION: If an iamb contains two syllables, and we are putting five of them together, how many syllables will be in one line of pentameter? (see below for the answer)

I do not always write backwards when creating pentameter, I piece together words or phrases of 2, 3 or 4 syllables. Sometimes I start from the middle and add words before and after.

Here is a list of words that have 3 syllables. You can test big words using whisper-shout. First, whisper the first syllable, shout the second and whisper the third. Then reverse it. Shout the first, whisper the second and shout the third. Which way seems right? Test yourself using these words:

acrobat

believer

cucumber

decipher

envelope

fanatic

gigantic

helium

idea

Depending on where you place a word in your line, it can support a right or left-foot iambic sentence. As I build my iambic lines, I keep track of the number of syllables as my line grows. For example (using the words above):

double-jointed acrobat (7)

He thinks I am a true believer (9)

cucumber salad (5)

an opened envelope (6)

my crazy rock fanatic (7)

helium baloon (5)

bright idea (4)

All of these phrases have alternating stressed and unstressed syllables.

The lines for today’s prompt will begin with a stressed syllable.

PROMPT: Make a word list of three syllable words. Put at least 20 words on your list. Underline or highlight the stressed syllables. Put each word into a phrase that is iambic (stressed syllables separated by unstressed syllables). Write a poem, based on your favorite or best practice phrase, that has 8 lines where each is written in iambic pentameter (10 syllables). You may rhyme if you like.

FOR PARENTS OF YOUNGER CHILDREN: Help your child(ren) make a word list of 3 syllable words. Take each word and ask them to put a word before each word or after. Write down those phrases and ask them to do it again. Count the syllables and check where the stresses are in each phrase using whisper-shout. Make at least one iambic pentameter line. With parents helping, I would not ask younger children to work on much more than one or two lines.

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*The Pentagon is named for the geometric shape of the same name. It has 5 sides.

MATH QUESTION ANSWER: Two syllables per iamb times five iambs to make pentameter equals ten syllables per line of pentameter.  2 x 5 = 10

WORD LIST WITH STRESSED SYLLABLES IN UPPERCASE LETTERS:

ACroBAT

beLIEVer

CUcumber

deCIpher

ENveLOPE

fanATic

giGANtic

HEliUM

idEa

KidPoWriMo Day 13 ~ Rule of Three

Used widely in almost all kinds of writing, the “rule of three” is also commonly used in poetry. When you write a story and give it a beginning, middle and an ending, you are using the rule of three. People who have experience with writing storybooks, jokes, plays, songs, movies, speeches, sermons and poems, use the rule of three naturally.

When we learned to recite the alphabet, we were told to call them the “A,B,C’s” (the first 3 letters of the alphabet). Think of a healthy meal. Doesn’t it contain a protein, starch and a vegetable? Advertisements in newspapers, magazines, radio, TV or the internet often have three word slogans. Do you recognize: “Just do it” (Nike) or “I’m lovin’ it” (McDonald’s)?

Audiences tend to enjoy or appreciate what you write for them more when you have three sections, three examples or three of whatever your are writing about. If your poem is going to be funny, the rule of three suggests you will get a bigger laugh if you use it. If you are trying to make a point, you will do so more effectively if you use the rule of three.

Don’t forget that 5-7-5 haiku poems have 3 lines each. And did you notice that the phrase “rule of three” contains three words? O-o-o-h!

When organizing the three things you are going to write about, you may choose to put them in the order of size, smallest to largest, if that makes sense. Sometimes, you will use a different way to order your three. In the children’s story “Goldilocks and the Three Bears”, the title gives you the rule of three: There are three bears in this story. Goldilocks went into three parts of the bears’ family home and each room had its own rule of three. The bowls of porridge she sampled were first too hot, then too cold and finally just right. She also sat in three chairs and rested in three beds.

In the movie, “The Wizard of OZ”, Dorothy meets three very different characters on her way to the Emerald City. The first, the Scarecrow, has no brain, the second, the Tin Man, has no heart (but he does have a brain), the third, the Cowardly Lion, has no courage (but he has a heart and a brain); what he does have is a lot of personality. Each one is very interesting when you meet them, but the next one is even more interesting than the one before him. Imagine how different you might feel if the Tin Man or the Scarecrow showed up in the story after the Cowardly Lion. Then think of how you should write about your three things so that they keep your readers interested.

If you were writing about your favorite fruits, if you don’t order them by size, you could use how sweet they are, or when they are in season. You could also start with the one you don’t like so much and end with the one that is your favorite.

Poetic phrase of the day: “rule of three” (click here to read the definition on Wikipedia.org)

PROMPT:  Think of something you would bring back from your summer vacation to give to your best friend or favorite relative. They might be happy with the one you gave them, but imagine if you gave them three of that thing. Write a poem about giving someone three gifts or souvenirs from your vacation. Describe in your poem how each item is different or the same as the others. Add a reason why you gave three of them instead of just one. This is your poem. Use the rule of three as best you can.

PARENTS OF YOUNGER CHILDREN: Take a walk with your child(ren) around your home or neighborhood, write down the first thing you see on your walk. When you get to the farthest place from your front door, write down something else you see. Pick one last item and write it down on your way back. Talk about each item on your walk. For example, the items I saw are:

1. the backyard gate

2. a park bench, and

3. a fire hydrant

Work together to make a poem about the three things on your list. You may write three things about each item or three things that happened while you were walking to that item. Let everyone use their imaginations.

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KidPoWriMo Day 12 ~ Repetition

If you know the Pledge of Allegiance, or can recite a prayer, or remember something a family member told you when you were little, it is because of one thing: repetition. Whether you were standing in a classroom with your hand on your chest, or kneeling in a house of worship or sitting at the kitchen table, you remember these things because you did them everyday or every week for long time.

When you share your poem, you may have just one chance. Someone might read your poem from a page or you may read it to them. Either way, at the end of the poem, your opportunity is over. If your message is important enough for you to write it in a poem, how will you get your audience to remember it? Use repetition.

Poetic word of the day: refrain (click here to see the definition on Merriam-Webster’s Word Central)

You can repeat words, phrases or whole stanzas in your poems.Spoken word artists use repetition often because it can boost the entertainment value of their poem. Printed poems also benefit when parts are repeated. Your main idea is the what you repeat. If one word makes your point, repeat it. If a phrase or sentence is needed, repeat that.  When you do, your audience will recognize something familiar that you gave them before and it sinks in a little deeper. Even if people don’t remember you name, they will remember your poem. Some may even repeat parts of it back to you.

You can be creative when repeating a section of your poem. Repeating something exactly the same way two or three times can become boring. If you are repeating a stanza, you can reword it or rearrange the phrases. You can even rewrite a phrase in the section. Your audience will notice what is different if you change one small thing each time you repeat it.

The best example of this that I can find is Dr. Seuss’ “Green Eggs and Ham” where there is lots of repetition and most repeated parts are different as the story goes on.

Although it might take me a long time to count Dr. Seuss' repetitions, repeating an idea three or four times should be enough for most poems. Be careful not to repeat too much. At one of the first poetry readings I ever attended, a poet read a poem that mentioned a "cup" at least 30 times, with symbolism as the poetic device. At the end of the 2-minute poem, I felt as though I had been beaten over the head with this simple household item.

Haiku is the only kind of poem that I don't like to write repeated words. That doesn't mean you can't do it. I have read some wonderful haiku where a word was repeated. It is just something I prefer not to do. My philosophy is, if I am working with 17 syllables (or less), I need to use each one as efficiently as possible. Besides, the poem is too short for anyone to forget the first time I used the word.

PROMPT: Think of something that you have been waiting for. It can be an event, like a birthday or starting a new school (or job) or a move to another part of the country. Maybe a family member is far away and you are waiting for them to come home. Or, it could be an object, like a new book, or a toy. Maybe, you are getting tired of waiting for whatever it is. Use repetition to write the poem that will make this happen sooner.

For this poem, you will need to use stanzas. You know your main idea. Decide whether you will repeat one word, a phrase, sentence or stanza.

FOR PARENTS OF YOUNGER CHILDREN: Re-read a picture book that your child(ren) may have outgrown, one you haven't read in a long time. Try to choose one that doesn't have lots of words or rhymes. Talk about the story. Ask what happens more than one time in the book, if anything. Work with your child(ren) to make a poem based on their favorite page or favorite part of the book. Invite them to add something new with their poem that is not already in the book.

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