Got Poetry?

April is National Poetry Month

by Julie Bookman

  Do you think that you “shall never see a poem as lovely as a tree”?
  It’s something to ponder, that first line of “Trees,” a famous poem by Alfred Joyce Kilmer (1886-1918). The poem continues: “A tree whose hungry mouth is prest/ Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast.”
  April brings us National Poetry Month, a time to appreciate the ebb and flow of words and the powers of the imagination.
  Why not write a little ditty (or a longer poem) and tuck it in your child’s pocket, backpack or lunch box so that he will find it as just a little surprise. Next Thursday, April 26, is “Poem in Your Pocket Day.” Find a poem that you love (“Trees,” anyone?), make copies for members of your family. Voila! Everyone has a poem in their pocket that they can share with others.
   Why not sit down and have fun writing poetry with your kids? Remember: rhyming is always optional. You can be the instructor – and participate, too. We provide some prompts below. Prompts are just to get a child going by challenging him to express something in an unusual way. It’s all about thinking outside the box. Children will come up with some unexpected things sometimes, such as “I used to be a book of dreams but now I have a name of eyes." Isn't that cool? That example comes from the Kenneth Koch book, Wishes, Lies and Dreams, in a section of poems written by students who were asked to think of something that they used to be and a way that they are different now. Then, they went from there, often never knowing where their pen might lead them. Here are prompts to inspire all ages to try a little poetry:

  • Begin a poem in this way: “I used to ______  / but now I _____ .”
  • Begin a poem in this way: “People think I am ______ / But really I am _______.”
  • “Remember” poems. Begin each line with “I remember . . .”
  • Write a poem about a favorite month, or a favorite color.
  • Try a poem about being an animal. Start with something like: “I am a seagull . . .”
  • Ask your child to try to make words out of funny noises they hear – then watch them go from there.
  • Have your child pick a favorite city or place and make a metaphor. For example: “I am Paris,” or “I am Honolulu,” then continue the poem from there.
  • “Lie poems” allow kids to stretch their imaginations in wonderful ways. Give your kid the go-ahead to not tell the truth by making bold statements such as “I am a rock star,” – then watch them soar.
  • Poems with Spanish words; great chance to work on those second-language skills.
  • Put on stimulating music and get your children to write what the music makes them feel
  • Each member of the family can write a poem about his or her favorite color.
  • If you’ve got more than one poet-child, have them take turns writing one line of a poem using one of the above prompts.

Want more poetry action? We like the “poetry playground” on poet Kenn Nesbitt’s site,
and activities from the Academy of American Poets.