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 8 ~ Personification

Have you ever read a story or poem with objects that do things that humans do? But, you know that if you were to hold that object in your hand, it probably wouldn’t do anything like the way you read it.

When you write about something that is not human but make it behave like one, your are using a poetic device called: “personification”.

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

Personification is my favorite thing to do in a poem when I want to be funny. It helps me make the humor happen and it helps readers look at the topic from a different angle.

When you use personification in your writing, you can make anything you write about do anything you want. All you need is your imagination (and maybe pencil and paper). If you have a game you haven’t played in a long time, you may imagine it whispering to you, “When can we play again?” or it might say loudly, “You’re too old for me! Let me go  to your cousin’s house.”

Personification doesn’t always mean making things talk. Anything a person does can be used to personify something that is not a person.

If you decided to wait until tomorrow to do some work you were supposed to do yesterday, all of the work you have to do in one day may keep you from having any fun. Using personification, you may write about this:  “my chores are ganging up on me” or “my chores have gotten so big, they could try out for the football team!”

PROMPT: Write a story poem using personification. Make it at least 8 lines long.  See if you can combine one of the previous lessons and write with iambs, rhymealliteration or maybe simile’.

FOR PARENTS OF YOUNGER CHILDREN: Personify some items your child(ren) will use in their poems. For instance, a lamp that lights the page on which poems are written can be personified when you make it talk about that. The pen or pencil can add how they shape the words and make them appear on the page. And the notebook can talk about how it feels to hold the important poetic words your child writes. Finally, the three could have an argument about which one of them is the most important, and why.

When riding in a car or on a bus, your child(ren) can personify different things seen through the window. “The blue car is moving slowly because ‘he’s lost…” or “he’s sad” or “he is hungry… where is the gas station?”. “The sun keeps playing hide and seek with your child and the clouds.”

You probably already use personification when you pretend to give a teddy bear a voice  that sings a lullaby or when a forkful of broccoli “asks” your child to eat it. Maybe an empty room in your home “gets angry” if the light is left on or the bathroom sink “cries” if dirty hands pass by without being washed (feel free to use any of these).

Let me add one caution: Consider setting a boundary around this poetic device. When poetry or creative time is over, make sure your child knows they need to stop playing with personification for now. There is so much of it on television, in books and games, they could just as easily stay in personification mode all day. They might even flip it and use it on you when they want something from you or if they don’t want to do something that needs to be done. There is a time to be poetic and a time to understand that cars don’t really get hungry and lamps, pens and notebooks do not have arguments.

My computer and I now bid you “good-bye”.

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KidPoWriMo Day 7 ~ Smile for Simile’

When you hear people talk about a “poetic device”, they mean a “tool” used to make poetry. What I mean by “tool” is: a way of putting words together. This is different from your pen, pencil, paper or computer, etc. These things are the tools you use to write poetry, yes. But, the ways of putting words together are your skills, or the tricks you have up your sleeve.

Simile’ is a popular way of putting words together, especially for poets. It adds meaning and helps the reader better understand what the writer means. Simile’ puts two things together and compares them. You will find a clue when you are reading simile’ if the phrase or sentence contains “as” or “like”.

Poetic word of the day: “simile'” (click here to see the definition on About.com)

IMPORTANT: Not all phrases that contain “as” or “like” are simile’. Read my sentence: “As I sit in my folding chair, I watch the clouds drift by.” This begins with “as” but I did not compare two things.

Examples:

“He is as slow as molasses.” – this compares the slowness of a person with molasses, a thick sweet syrup.

You are like my security blanket. – this compares a person with a blanket and how both create a feeling of safety.

“As the deer pants for streams of water so my soul pants for you, my God”. Ps. 42:1 (NIV) – this compares a thirsty deer with a person’s need for a higher power.

“Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives.” – this compares grains of sand to days on a calendar.

(“Days of Our Lives” television show opening sequence)

PROMPT: How many pairs of things can you put together using “like” or “as”? Write a poem with two lines of simile’: one using “like” and the other using “as”.

FOR PARENTS OF YOUNGER CHILDREN: Gather some everyday objects in one place. Talk with your child about the properties of these items: “The football does not bounce where we expect it to go and it has a tough, bumpy cover.” “This raw egg has an odd shape but it doesn’t bounce.” “Mom’s wide-brimmed hat has a saucer shape and can be tossed across the room.” “The crystal fruit bowl is very shiny; the sun reflects off of it.”  Have everyone say what the properties bring to mind. Hold up each object and say a simile’ based on the comments you have shared. Write down the simile’s you create.

Make sure younger ones know how to say “simile'”. This is a unique word. In the days ahead, you will have many opportunities to use simile’ as your child(ren) find more things to compare.

Now you can smile for simile’. You and your young poet(s) have a new poetic trick up your sleeves.

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