Sunday, April 26, 2015

Celebrating Poem in Your Pocket Day

I'm looking forward to Thursday. It's one of my favorite days on the spring calendar - Poem in Your Pocket Day. And this year, my students and I are going to celebrate big!

For the past week, my Creative Writing students have been exploring poetry in all its forms.  We've looked for mentor poems to mimic, read Lawrence Ferlinghetti's piece on "What is Poetry?" which inspired the creation of our own definitions of poetry, and examined a variety of different poetry styles from ovillejos to limericks, from free verse to slam poetry. This week we'll learn lineation from poets Dana Gioia and Robert Creeley, look to the New York Times Magazine series "Picture and a Poem" for inspiration as we create visual representations of our favorite verses, and welcome Montgomery County Poet Laureate David Escobar-Martin into class on Wednesday to both share his work and help us as we craft our own lines. And then there's Thursday. Poem in Your Pocket Day!

I'll be giving my students extra credit for bringing in and sharing with the class their favorite verses, and we'll be handing out poetry in the hallways between classes to help our building celebrate the last day of National Poetry Month.  My Creative Writing class will also be using those verses to craft ornaments for our poet-tree (get it?). We'll be decorating a tree outside of our high school with our favorite verses, inspiring our learning community with well-loved lines.  And then we'll chalk those verses onto the sidewalk in front of our building.
In particular, I'm looking forward to chalking our favorite poems.  I've done this before, and the conversation that such an activity sparks, not only from passersby but from participants as well, is incredibly fruitful.  Chalking lines of poetry forces us to slow down, to examine our favorite lines in greater detail.  When I ask students to write out their favorite lines large on the sidewalk, we see them in new ways. The activity slows us down, opens up opportunities for us to consider the poem - its diction and line breaks, rhetorical choices and content - in new ways. It is rewarding to witness those ah-ha moments when students slow down and carefully consider the words they are scribbling onto concrete. They will be excited by this activity, we'll be outside and playing with chalk, but I also know that in doing so, we'll be engaging in a close reading of the poems that some of us have heard time and time again. However on Thursday, we'll be considering them with new eyes.

How will you be celebrating Poem in Your Pocket Day and the close of National Poetry Month with your students?

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