I had a panicked phone call from my niece the other day. She’d been off school for a few days, and she’d just had a text from a friend telling her that they had to hand in a poem about sweets the next morning. It was already almost bedtime, so time was short.
Usually when teaching poetry, I’d have a selection available so that we could look at the structure of them, and choose one to use as a framework. There was no time for any of this however, so we had to bluff it. This is how she wrote a poem in 15 minutes…
- She chose the sweet she was going to write about – Turkish Delight
- She wrote down as many words to describe it as she could: lovely, jelly, pink, yellow, sugary, chocolate, flavours, strawberry, lemon, rose, cubes, sweet, tangy, nice.
- She wrote down words to describe what it felt like in her mouth (chewy, like heaven) and how she felt when she ate it (happy)
- She used a thesaurus to replace all the boring words (nice became enjoyable, lovely became delicious, happy became joyful)
- She grouped together words that started with the same sound (alliteration) so we got “joyful jelly (an example of personification) and “chewy, chocolate-covered cubes”.
- She mixed up the senses so that feelings and colours had tastes (tangy yellow)
- She was insistent that this poem had to rhyme, even though poetry doesn’t have to, so she chose some words she thought it would be easy to find rhymes for (jelly, rose, sweet, pink) and made a list of all the words she came up with that rhymed. She also looked at her initial list of words to see if there were any rhymes or near rhymes.
- She looked at the words she hadn’t used from her initial list, and picked out a couple of her favourites.
- She kept moving the groups of words around until she found an order she was happy with.
10. She wrote the final version out in her book in neat.
This is the final poem:
Strawberry-flavoured, joyful jelly
Feels delicious in my belly.
Chocolate-covered cubes of heaven
Sugar-coated, rose and lemon.
Tangy yellow, pink so sweet
Makes an enjoyable evening treat.
Ok, it’s not going to win any literary prizes but it’s not bad for a late-night, ¼ hour Skype video chat.