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 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 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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KidPoWriMo Day 11 ~ Mixing it up

Congratulations! The month is one third of the way finished!

With apologies for the delay in posting the 11th prompt, I am working to catch up.

Today is when we pause for a moment and remember what we have covered so far this month. If you like one of the lessons more than another, that is OK. You may like working with iambs more than writing haiku. If so, then write using iambs in most of your poems. If simile’ makes you smile but you don’t have time for rhyme, use more simile’ and don’t let anyone stop you.

You may have noticed that the prompts I have posted have not been very specific. I have not asked you to write about a particular thing that I choose, like “apple pie” or a “purple pillow”. Although everyone reading this may have seen these things and knows what they are, some of you might not be as inspired as I think you’d be if I gave you a specific prompt. What I have tried to do is to get you to think of things that inspire you and let you write about them.

[Think about this: if I did give a prompt to write about a purple pillow, and your teachers and parents and other poets were reading the posted poems, we would have so many poems about purple pillows, the internet would be overdecorated!]

Whether you are using the prompts found here or writing your own poem each day, you have freedom of choice. This is true even when there is no #KidPoWriMo.

Poetic word of the day: art (click here to read the definition on the Bing Dictionary)

Poetry is art created with words. But, the things poets write about are not always beautiful. Still with our words, we draw attention to the things we choose as topics for our poetry, and we do so in an artistic way.

Have you ever just talked to someone about something that is important to you? When someone writes a poem about an important topic and shares it, people are more likely to pay close attention to what they say, especially because they took time and effort to write the poem in the first place.

You can mix two, three or four (or more) of the prompts so far. But, if another poet chose the same prompts, the poems you write would still be very different. The prompts I am offering here leave lots of room for you to use your own creativity and express your individuality.

PROMPT: Below is a list of possible mix-ups (or mash-ups). Pick one of them and use it to write your poem.

– rhyming, ode containing simile’ ~ the ode can be to something you found or got while on summer vacation

– 5-7-5 haiku, written backwards that includes personification ~ write the whole haiku backwards starting with the last word of the last line

– 6-word haiku that uses iambs that includes alliteration ~ it is OK if all six words do not begin with the same letter – see how many you can make fit into your haiku

FOR PARENTS OF YOUNGER CHILDREN: Combining alliteration,  iambs and word cards, have your child(ren) pick a letter and write down some left-foot iambs that are nouns and that begin with that letter. Pick another letter and do the same thing, but with adjectives. Each card should have two syllables (either one two-syllable word or two one-syllable words).

Use the whisper-shout technique to make sure they are left foot iambs. Build a stack of 20 words (10 nouns and 10 adjectives in separate piles). Pick one card from the middle of each stack. Read the adjective card and then the noun card. Write more iamb cards as you think of more words.

Once you have four combinations you like, copy them onto paper and think of verbs and adverbs (and other parts of speech) you can add. If your younger child(ren) do not know about the parts of speech yet, help them think of words that make their cards into a sentence, even if the words are not iambs.

The randomness of combining iambs written on cards and the fact that you and your child(ren) can pick pairs you like, will help you begin a poem that you will feel proud to have written with your kids.

NOTE: Rhyme, Iamb, 5-7-5 haiku, Ode, writing backwards, alliteration, spoken word, simile’, personification, four-line stanza and six-word haiku are some of the topic covered on the first 10 days of KidPoWriMo.

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KidPoWriMo Day 10 ~ Haiku Part 2

When you think about poetry, what comes to your mind?

Poems can be small, like haiku, or smaller. Have you ever heard of a one word poem? I remember one that made the news because it won a contest and was only one word in length (and that one word was misspelled). Some poems may have a few dozen words, or a handful of stanzas. Epic poems can be larger than chapter books or novels.

I think of an epic poem like a blockbuster movie. Spoken word poems that take up a few pages, I think of as television shows. Sonnets, pantoums and other poems that fit on one page are like a music video. And haiku are like a snap shot or photograph. Comparing them to another genre of art helps me when choosing how much detail I want to add to my poems.

One third of the way through the month, we have lots of tools we can combine to write hundreds of poems. And there is so much more we can add to our poetic tool chest.

On Day 3, we learned about 17 syllable haiku, the one that has 5 syllables in the first line, 7 in the middle line and 5 in the final line. With respect to the poets who prefer to write haiku that is smaller than 17 syllables, I decided that we would take some time to do that, too.

When writing a poem that must be a certain number of syllables, we sometimes have to add words that may be unnecessary or remove words that we thought were important to the message we want in our poem. When writing smaller haiku poems, a poet can make a message without worrying about counting syllables. No extra words have to be added and no important words need to be taken away.

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

Haiku, loosely defined, is a small poem. The #haiku hashtag is very popular on Twitter. Another popular hashtag is #sixwords. People use it to write poems, stories, sayings or whatever they like.

PROMPT: Write a 6-word poem / haiku. Put two words in each of 3 lines. As a story has a beginning, middle and ending, give your poem a beginning, middle and end. After the reader finishes reading the first two lines, they may think they know where the poem is going, but you may surprise them with the last word.

I will use  an example from my own daily haiku project:

Haiku #150 (May 21)

green thumb
long weekend
container garden

by Cheryl Crockett

Notice, small words, such as “a”, “the”, “if”, “is”, are missing from this poem. Still, my message is clear.

PARENTS OF YOUNGER CHILDREN: One at a time, have your child(ren) say a word that comes to mind, a noun. Then have everyone else add a word. They do not have to be favorite words. Go around the room a few times. Add adjectives to the nouns, using a different color ink or crayon. Instead of writing the words on a piece of paper or in a notebook, an older person can write them on 3 x 5 cards.  Put the cards on the side of the table, a pile near each person. Have each person put one word in the center of the table and read the word pairs you see. If anyone likes a word pair, leave those two words in the center of the table and take away the other word cards. Say and write more words to complete a six word haiku. Do this again and again. This is not a game where someone wins and someone else loses. It is an activity where everyone works together to make a poem. Save the cards you make for future poetry activities.

KidPoWriMo Day 9 ~ Four by four

Last Tuesday, we learned about iambs and feet in writing poetryUsing this, today we will write the first four lines of a poem. Each line will contain four iambs.

REVIEW OF DAY 2: One iamb is also known as a foot that has two syllables where one is stressed and the other is unstressed. I suggested that we name an iamb with the first syllable stressed a: “left-foot” and one with the stress in the 2nd syllable a “right-foot”. An iamb can be one two-syllable word or two one-syllable words.  For this exercise, stressed syllables will always be next to unstressed syllables. In other words, alternate the unstressed with stressed syllables.

The following example will use “right-feet” and the stressed syllables will be in UPPERCASE letters.

The 2nd line of a favorite children’s rhyme has three right-foot iambs:

the MOUSE ran UP the CLOCK” (from “Hickory, Dickory Dock”)

The line has six syllables (3 feet or iambs) where the even-numbered syllables are stressed (2nd, 4th & 6th).

Each line of the poem we will write today has an added iamb for a total of 4 iambs per line.

Poetic word of the day: “stanza” (click here to see the definition on Wikipedia)

A stanza is a part of a poem. It can contain as few as two, up to almost as many lines as you like. Similar to a paragraph, which can contain any number of sentences and is a section of a written work, a stanza is a section of a poem.

When putting your words together, feel free to use the whisper-shout exercise, from Day 2,  to make sure you have put the stresses in the right place.

Pick your topic and write it down. I am creating as I write this post. My topic is “snacks”. I will write my whole creative process. Let’s write together, shall we?

I am going to write backwards so I can put my topic word at the end of a line and because I know it will be easy to find other words that rhyme with it.

SNACK

The word “HEALthy” is a “left-foot” iamb, but when I put a one syllable word after it, I can make it work in my line. But, because we are only using right-feet iambs, I will try something else. My strategy will be to use as many one-syllable words as I can.

to GET my SNACK

I have two iambs and I put my topic word at the end of the line. Next, I will think of words to go in front of them:

i JUST can’t WAIT to GET my SNACK

Now, I have a line! I could use it to open my poem as the first line, or it could be at the end of my poem. Where would you put this line among the four? I will figure this out as I write the next lines.

my CHOICE is ONE that’s GOOD for ME

OK, a second line came quickly. Now, for a third. As I start my third lines, If I am going to use rhyme, I need to keep “ME” and “SNACK” in mind.

some GRAPES

my SACK

inSIDE

i PUT

This is the order that the iambs came to my mind. When I put them together into a line, I get:

i PUT some GRAPES inSIDE my SACK.

And I have rhymed SACK with SNACK. Knowing that I still need to rhyme something with ME, the word “AGREE” came to my mind and it is a right-foot iamb! Yay!

do YOU aGREE

don’t YOU aGREE

if YOU aGREE

I wrote a few options of phrases for my fourth line.

that’s WHAT i THINK do YOU aGREE

i’d LIKE to SHARE if YOU aGREE

These almost work, but I am not happy with what I have written so far. Should I think of another word or phrase that rhymes with ME?

you SEE

a TREE

the BEE

my KNEE

for FREE

with GLEE

(from “A”) to “Z”

OK, I will start my fourth line over again writing iambs that go with “for FREE”

mySELF

i PICKED

each ONE

them ALL

them FROM

a VINE

I have more iambs than I need, so I will put some together to make my fourth line:

i PICKED them ALL mySELF for FREE

Let me try another combination:

i PICKED them FROM a VINE for FREE

Now, I have four completed lines that I can put together into a stanza.

I just can’t wait to get my snack.

My choice is one that’s good for me.

I put some grapes inside my sack.

I picked them all myself for free.

I can reorganize the lines so that the line I wrote first is somewhere else in my stanza:

I put some grapes inside my sack.

I picked them all myself for free.

I just can’t wait to get my snack.

My choice is one that’s good for me.

I can put my lines together is many different ways. I can pick the one I like best and put it in my poem. When you read my lines, you can feel the rhythm as you say the stressed and unstressed syllables.

How did your stanza take shape? Notice in my creative process, shared above, some ideas seem good at first but later don’t work the way we thought they would. It is OK to take a couple of steps back and write a few more ideas to see which ones you like best.

Now do this again to make your 2nd stanza and at least a 3rd. Write as many as you like to finish your poem.

 FOR PARENTS WITH YOUNGER CHILDREN: Play with iambs made from one syllable words. Start with the example line “the MOUSE ran UP the CLOCK” and use it like a template. Take one of the stressed words out of the line and replace it with another word chosen by your child(ren).  Then pick any other word and replace it. Do this one word at a time until you have written a new original line. My example: “my PUP went OUT to PLAY”. Let the whole family help change the words. Write down each line, try to make pairs of lines rhyme. Finally, put them together.

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