I recently did a course about writing poems with FutureLearn. I have never really enjoyed poetry and I know that I tend to neglect it when I teach, so I was hoping that the course would give me some new ideas for helping me to enjoy teaching poetry and for helping my pupils develop their poetry writing skills.
One of the types of poetry mentioned on the course was “found poems” and I found this very interesting. The idea is to write a poem using only words and phrases that you can hear or see at the time of writing. The words don’t have to be used in the order that they are overheard or seen so you have to play around a bit to find an order that makes sense, but I liked the idea that pupils could be creative without having come up with their own ideas which many people find difficult.
An example of a found poem is written below. This was written using words I could see while sitting at my desk – from snack packets, various items pinned to a corkboard, German post-it notes and a framed picture. The only addition to this poem were the words “No inspiration.”
Salt and Vinegar,
Pay credit card,
Write to Rachel,
Thank you for booking….
You are cordially invited…
Next day guaranteed.
No inspiration ursprünglich
but im Augenblick
I’m away with the fairy lights…
and it’s gruselig!
I shall definitely try this out with some of my tuition pupils in the coming year. If anybody wants more ideas of how to write a poem I can recommend the FutureLearn course “How to Make a Poem“.
Related post: The 10 Step Cheat’s Guide to Writing a Poem
Robert Burns was born on the 25th of January 1759. Five years after his death died his friends decided to commemorate his life with a special supper where they read some of his poetry and had a meal.
This tradition has continued until the present day and is still celebrated on 25th January. People dress up in tartan, and recite Burns poetry. The main part of Burns night celebration is the meal, which is usually haggis, tatties (potatoes) and neeps (turnips). During the evening, the haggis is brought into the room to the sound of bagpipes, and the host of the evening reads the poem “Address to a Haggis”, which was written by Burns. The haggis is then cut and shared between the guests along with the tatties and neeps.
The rest evening is a good excuse to drink whisky and have a sing song, including traditional Scottish songs such as Auld Lang Syne (also written by Burns)!
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.
I’ve lost my Gran.
She’s still there,
I see her every Sunday.
She still sits in her favourite chair by the fire,
which is always on, even in summer,
because she says she’s cold.
Sometimes when she sees me, she smiles,
asks how I am and how my friends are.
We natter about the neighbours,
gossip and giggle.
We play her old wartime music,
sing along together
even though I don’t know the words.
But sometimes when she sees me she’s confused,
doesn’t recognise me,
calls me the wrong name.
That makes me sad.
Sometimes she’s scared of me, and that’s worse.
Thinks I’m a doctor come to put her in a home,
or a thief after her jewellery and nick-nacks.
Sometimes she shouts and swears,
has tantrums and throws things,
kicks and scratches, bites.
Then I don’t recognise her,
and that breaks my heart.
I’ve lost my Gran.
She’s still there, frail body in her favourite chair.
But in her mind she’s gone away.
I’m in my room doing homework.
and I hear
raised voices in the kitchen,
the radio being turned up,
footsteps on stairs,
wardrobe doors opening,
clothes hangers scraping on rails,
zipper on suitcase,
thud of case hitting wooden floor,
front door clicking shut,
wheels churning up gravel,
I can’t concentrate now.
My homework blurs, then smudges.
He didn’t even say, “Goodbye.”