Keep my voice and eyes low,
low enough to bring you close.
close enough to hear your breath.
Breathe in the promise of our silence;
silence is bolder than sound —
sounds block too many crevices…
crevices that wait to be filled.
Fill the space between our fingers,
fingers interlaced like a cat’s cradle…
cradling the secrets we keep.
It’s been on the mind of
the human race
since humans had a mind
to start asking
the really important questions.
Why are we here?
We invented answers
(religion, love, families…)
to fill our need for reason.
Poets and priests,
politicians and prisoners
have pondered and
pontificated the point
for a profit.
Sages and shrinks
have drawn the masses
and made a killing
And the human race
follows whichever answer
makes the best sense
and provides the most
Until it doesn’t.
It seems our greatest fear
as a species
is being…just to be.
A few brave (or foolish) souls
assume that we’re here
for no reason -
one amazing mistake with
no real purpose
But wouldn’t that, after all,
have the most dangerous
Paint the walls with time
so that I may see it in passing
when the hall light
glows weakly against its pallor.
But take the clocks away —
the incessant ticking
unsettles my heartbeat
which struggles to keep pace.
And take the calendars, too —
those daily screams
of obligations and responsibilities.
I cannot live up to their expectations.
For just awhile,
let me hear silence
and forget that there are moving hands
and seven squares for each week
filled to capacity.
Write about something you don’t have enough of.
They’re the kings of poetry, really…metaphors that build upon themselves like waves, rolling through (and sometimes consuming) a poem. Choose something…like Life or Work, or Love or something more obscure like “My Addiction to Downton Abbey” or “Kids’ fascination with technology”…and describe it using a metaphor or similes that build and grow.
For some examples - published and by kids…click HERE. No, these are not from my students.
And, for grins…here’s one of my all time favorite simile poems, by one of my all time favorite poets, Billy Collins - (I use to….wait for it….Introduce my poetry unit)….and another poem I use right after that. The poem by Taylor Mali can actually be heard by the author (he’s a fantastic poet for kids) by going to his website or do a youtube search. His website is taylormali.com.
It’s fun, it’s artistic, and it forces you to use words in a way you normally might not.
Find a magazine…sit down with some scissors…and cut out any and all words that catch your eye - either because of their appearance, or their sound, or their meaning to you. You can even choose words you don’t know the meaning of!
Once you have a healthy little pile of words, begin arranging them. Let the poem take shape beneath your fingers. Don’t force it, just let it happen. Once you have something that makes some semblance of sense, glue it to paper.
What I like about this exercise is that it stretches our beliefs about how to make meaning. Without the constant reliance on words like a, and, the, or, of, etc., the full focus has to be on the real “meat” words of the poem.
After organizing the words, if an article or two is an absolute must, go ahead and add it. Also, if there is a word or two that would make it just perfect…go find them and cut them out.
The second thing I really like about this exercise is, it’s artistic - you can do dozens of these…and like colorful magnetic poetry, you can paper you walls, decorate your desk, or use them as beginnings for something even greater. They might spark an idea, you would never have had otherwise.
I’ve seen this done by many different people in many different ways, so I’m sure you could adapt it however it worked for you.
For some good examples…visit: ransomnotepoetry.com
Open a favorite book of poems (or look up a favorite poet’s work online). Choose a poem. Take the first line…and begin your own poem with it.
For all of its lightness and simplicity
this ring holds my world at its center.
Whole chapters of my life have worn
the white gold to a comfortable softness.
But the diamonds still glow like little stars
in the night sky that blankets the world.
Inside, the band is like a mirror, still smooth,
rarely removed, subsisting on the oils of my flesh,
reflecting what is most important — like an IV linked
directly to my nerves and bones and blood,
keeping me alive in times of fear or sorrow,
and nourishing hope in times of doubt.
When removed, a white patch of skin stares
worriedly up at me, vulnerable and waiting
to be covered again, safe and protected,
by something not unlike a warrior’s armor.
It is an unbroken circle, with windows to see through,
and sparkling lights to guide us home
even in the darkest of times.