Friday, January 20, 2012

Poems Can Be Memoirs




This time, Poetry Friday can be enjoyed with Elaine at Wild Rose Reader!

        I wrote a poem of introduction this week.

I’m teaching students how to write memoir,
to write their lines, a knit of who they are,
with tiny rows that knit one, then pearl two
in colorful skeins of yarn.  They can do
a word or more, sew them all together.
Lay the pattern well, it really doesn’t matter
what they choose as long as some truth weaves part
and most that’s kept comes finally from the heart.



There will be prose and poetry written in this class, and I wanted to share a few poems that I will share with students to show them possibilities.  We’ve started to find the seeds of what memories we want to write about.  Now we’ll write, but then choose the audience we’re writing for, and finally the style, or genre to use to communicate our choices. 

Here are some poems I’ll share with my students that have pleased me as memories of the poet’s lives, all different looks at someone’s tiny moments.


The Summer I Was Sixteen by Geraldine Connolly

The Turquoise pool rose up to meet us,
its slide a silver afterthought down which
we plunged…               The rest is here.


A Geography of Lunch by Mary Jo Schimelpfenig

My mother asks me if I like my sandwich.
I say I haven’t tasted it yet.
“What are you doing? Are you dreaming
off into space?” she says.

The rest is here.

Marcus Millsap:  School Day Afternoon  by Dave Etter

I climb the steps of the yellow school bus,
move to a seat in back, and we’re off,
bouncing along the bumpy blacktop.

          The rest is here.


Back In The Playground Blues  by Adrian Mitchell

Dreamed I was in a school playground, I was about four feet high
Yes dreamed I was back in the playground, and standing about four fee
high

           The rest is here.

              I hope you’ve had a few memories rise as you read these.  If you have favorites you can share with me, please do.  I will appreciate it!

23 comments:

  1. Love "a knit of who they are." My go-to introductory piece for students to try is "Where I'm From" by George Ella Lyon. I love how the pieces you've chosen are specific, small snapshots. Could really help the overwhelmed student. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Thank you for the idea, Irene. I know the poem, but hadn't thought of it. I'll add it to my list!

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  2. I love how most of the poems you shared don't particularly rhyme - I think it frees the children from studiously finding a word that rhymes instead of actively sensing from within what shade of word to use for which emotion.

    I was particularly taken by the lines from The Summer I was Sixteen:
    "Past cherry colas, hot-dogs, Dreamsicles,
    we came to the counter where bees staggered
    into root beer cups and drowned. We gobbled

    cotton candy torches, sweet as furtive kisses,
    shared on benches beneath summer shadows.
    Cherry. Elm. Sycamore."
    - oh, to be sixteen again.

    And I love your introductory poem too:
    "write their lines, a knit of who they are,
    with tiny rows that knit one, then pearl two
    in colorful skeins of yarn."

    - I am sure you're looking forward to seeing your children's quilted selves with their skeins of truths. :)

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    1. Thank you Myra. It's exciting to be teaching a group again, eager to write and eager to learn how to use words in new ways.

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  3. Memoir poems! Sounds like it's going to be a fun class. Enjoyed all the poems, and duly noted that two of them mentioned sandwiches. Yes, I'm obsessed!

    Never had a brown sugar sandwich before -- but that poem did remind me of my latchkey child school days. Didn't live anywhere near a farm, but the narrator's feeling of "after school freedom" resonated with me. I could do anything I wanted before my mom got home from work. A friend and I did fashion shows using my mom's high heels. There were refreshments, of course. :)

    Nice introductory poem!

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    1. Thanks, Jama. I believe food is one of the keys that unlock memories. You're so right to notice.

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  4. I've always liked "The Centaur" by May Swenson. (Actually, I forgot the name & author and had to Google my favorite line just now to find it... I read it as a child and certain lines just spoke to me and stayed with me.) Here is a link: http://babsonarabians.com/Readers_Corner/The_Centaur.htm

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  5. Great selection of poems. The students are sure to have fun writing their own memoirs.

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  6. Linda,
    The knitting metaphor is so great. That whole idea of weaving parts of truth…hmmm. I usually get great memoir poems out of kids after reading Don Graves' BASEBALL, SNAKES, AND SUMMER SQUASH. Graves is masterful, I think, at taking those teeny snippets of memory and creating a universal truth.

    I would love to meet sometime. Don't know if it will work at CCIRA - I'm presenting a couple of times and have some other stuff related to being a past president. I might be able to get together on Thursday after the sessions are over, or early Saturday morning, or we could just do a TC coffee time sometime…

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  7. How wonderful that you have a poem of your own to include with the other mentor texts!

    I hope you and Carol get to meet at CCIRA. I'm jealous that I won't be there -- but Franki will. Be sure to say hi to her! And both of you keep your calendars open for a June TC meeting when I'm home to visit Mom!

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    1. We will try to meet, but at least sometime in the near future! I'll look forward to June. Thanks for the comment.

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  8. You captured the essence of teaching memoir so well, Linda. And thanks for sharing the other poems as well - we're taking our memoirs and casting them as memoir poems as a final project in writing workshop - these will serve as wonderful mentor texts!

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    1. Thank you Tara. How wonderful that you are doing memoirs too. I like the idea of writing the prose, then re-writing as poems. Maybe that will happen in this group too?

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  9. I love "a knit of who they are." Perfect!

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  10. "with tiny rows that knit one, then pearl two
    in colorful skeins of yarn..."

    I think that Marcus Millsap: School Day Afternoon is a poem I'll come back to - such pure imagery.

    Another one I like is Virginia Hamilton's "Under the Back Porch." And for me right now, I love "35/10" by Sharon Olds.

    I hope that some of your students choose to write their memoirs as poems... If they do, would you be interested in writing a guest post - classroom peek - for The Poem Farm? I'd love to have you!

    a.

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    1. Thank you for the compliment Amy, and for the recommendations too. I'd love to write the post, will wait & see what happens with the class & let you know. Early drafts of ideas are due next week. I'm excited to see what they choose!

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  11. Great project, Linda! I tried to think of other memoir poems for you. Maybe "Oranges" by Gary Soto?

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  12. Thank you Tabatha. I know that poem, but forgot about it. I have used some of his prose for the students.

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  13. As a knitter and a teacher, I really love your poem. And I am inspired to try a bit of poetry myself this year. Even if it scares me :)

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    1. Thank you Juliann. Oh, I hope you do try some poetry. Just string those words together as you do so beautifully!

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  14. What a lovely collection of poems you put together here! So glad I found you through Poetry Friday. Looking forward to my next visit!

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