Poetry Virgins (reading and writing) Workshop for Professor Elizabeth Kendall's
Montclair University College Class

I) Opening Comments

            A) "Poetry virgins" a metaphor itself

            B) Rhyme, the 800-pound gorilla crushing our attempts to write poetry, or like the sword of Damocles, dangling over our heads

            C) My own early experiences with poetry

                        1) My father's reciting "The Charge of the Light Brigade"

                        2) My elementary music school teacher's rendition of James Whitcomb Riley's "The Bear Story"

                        3) Hearing Lewis Carroll's "Jabberwocky" ("Twas brillig and the slivey toves did gyre and gimble in the wabe") on a scratchy LP record in high school English

            D) Reciting to Rachel, aged 3, "Tyger, Tyger, Burning Bright" when cat jumped on bed from dimly lit doorway  (p. 13, Kick . . . Head) and connecting that to Nancy Willard's The Visit to William Blake's Inn

            E) Magic decoder (and encoder) rings, a symbol


II) Prompts / "Triggers"


            A) Fixed Forms, with simple rules for beginners


                        1) haiku—

                                    a) Least Things by Jane Yolen, photographs by Jason Stemple

                                    b) "Spring Rain" by Buson (p. 14-15, Kick . . . Head)

                                    c) J. Patrick Lewis's Black Swan, White Crow, woodcuts by Chris Manson 

                                    (good one-page intro)


                        2) senryu--about human nature rather than the natural world ("last June's cheese

                        sandwich") (p. 16, Kick . . . Head)


                        3) tanka--Penny Harter's "Fish guts" (p. 17, Kick . . . Head)


                        4) cinquain—Paul Janeczko's "cat in the window seat" (p. 18, Kick . . . Head)


                        5) limerick—Edward Lear's "There was an old lady whose folly" (p. 20, Kick . . .



                        6) double dactyl--higglety-pigglety, six-syllabled name in second line, Allan

                        Wolf's "History Lesson" and John Hollander's "Historical Refelctions" (p. 24-25,

                        Kick . . . Head)


                        7) acrostic—Paul Janeczko's "Cat" (p. 36-37, Kick . . . Head)


            B) riddle poem—

                        1) Robert Froman's "Puzzle" " (p. 75, Go with the Poem)

                        2) Valerie Worth's "Magnet" " (p. 89, Go with the Poem)


            C) Use of lists—

                        1) Douglas Florian's "What the Garbage Truck Ate for Breakfast Today" (p. 108,

                        Bing, Bang, Boing)

                        2) Shel Silverstein's "Eighteen Flavors" (p. 83, Go with the Poem)


            D) class project: have each member of the class add to one larger idea

                        1) Alphabets:

                                    a) Eve Merriam and Lane Smith's Spooky ABC

                                    b) John Updike's A Helpful Alphabet of Friendly Objects

                        2) Dee Lillegard and Don Carter's Wake Up House!: rooms full of poems

                        3) Mother Goose Rhymes

                                    a) Eve Merriam's The Inner City Mother Goose

                                    b) Monster Goose by Judy Sierra, illustrated by Jack Davis


            E) diction: choosing special words—

                        1) e. e. cummings' "when the world is mud-luscious . . . and puddle-wonderful"

                        (from The Oxford Illustrated Book . . . ed. by Hall)


                        2) Nikki Grimes' A Pocketful of Poems, illustrated by Javaka Steptoe


                        3) William Harris's "A Grandfather Poem" (p. 95, Go with the Poem)


            F) William Carlos Williams


                        1) typing on the prescription pad (being "willing to be constrained by limitations")


                        2) note to his wife, for "plums"


                        3) looking at the window at his neighbor's yard ("wheelbarrow")


            G) May Swenson's "Cardinal Ideograms" (p. 68-69, from The Oxford Illustrated Book . . .

            ed. by Hall)—envisioning what each digit looks like, and then describing its resemblance

            (zero: "a mouth.  Can blow or breath, be funnel, or Hello")


            H) Richard Wilbur's "Some Opposites"—"What is the opposite of riot?  It's lots of people

            keeping quiet." (p. 70, Oxford Illustrated)


            I) Changing the real into myth, explaining the origin of something—"alligator: "men

            made you into a dragon" (from Wade Zahares' Big, Bad and a little bit Scary: Poems that

            Bite Back!)


            J) Twist the Predictable Once or Twice—from Jack Prelutsky's The Gargoyle on the

            Roof, pictures by Peter Sis:

                        1) "Mother Gargoyle's Lullaby" (p. 10-11)  "it's time to sheathe your talons / And

                        fold your stony wings . . . Dream your lovely daymares, / Whre terror is delight É"

                        2) "My Sister is a Werewolf" (p. 22-23) "How I wish she were a vampire like her

                        loving family"

                        3) "A Werewolf of Distinction" (p. 36-37) "I, a werewolf of distinction, / Used to

                        fill the night with fear, / But I'm entering the twilight / Of my infamous career."



III) Literary Terms


            A) imagery in general (the flash from the camera and the dot inside your eyes for


                        1) Valerie Worth's "The tiger has swallowed a black sun" (p. 13, Go with the

            Poem, collected by Lilian Moore)

                        2) Russell Hoban's "Homework" (p. 85, Go with the Poem)


            B) similes—Emily Dickinson's "I'm Nobody" and "There is no frigate like a book" (from

            The Oxford Illustrated Book of American Children's Poems, edited by Donald Hall)


            C) metaphor—

                        1) Carl Sandburg's "The fog comes on little cat feet" (from The Oxford Illustrated

                        Book . . . ed. by Hall)


                        2) Langston Hughes' "Life ain't been no crystal stair . . ." (from The Oxford

                        Illustrated Book . . . ed. by Hall)


            D) extended metaphor—

                        1) "The Sparrow Hawk" (the predatory bird like Wild West outlaws, robbing a

                        stage coach, six guns blazing (from Wade Zahares' Big, Bad and a little bit Scary:

                        Poems that Bite Back!)


                        2) Judith Thurman's "Flashlight" (p. 93, Go with the Poem)


            E) personification—

                        1) Carl Sandburg's "Theme in Yellow" (p. 30, Go with the Poem)

                        2) Donald Finkel's "A Cellar and an Attic" (p. 61, Go with the Poem)


            F) alliteration—"Diabolic demons dance in the dell" (from Eve Merriam and Lane

            Smith's Spooky ABC)


            G) consonance—

                        1) Edna St. Vincent Millay's "Counting Out Rhyme"  (p. 48, from The

            Oxford Illustrated Book . . . ed. by Hall)

                        2) several Emily Dickinson


IV) Thematic Anthologies


            A) Hosannah the Home Run!: poems about sports, selected by Alice Fleming


            B) I am the Darker Brother: An anthology of Modern Poems by Negro Americans, edited

            by Arnold Adoff (1968)


            C) A Kick in the Head by Paul Janeczko and Chris Raschka (defining and exemplifying

            fixed forms of poetry)


            D) Old Elm Speaks: tree poems by Kristine O'Connell George, illustrated by Kate Kiesler


            E) Very Best (almost) Friends: poems of friendship, collected by Paul Janeczko,

            illustrated by Christine Davenier


            F) Hoop Queens, by Charlers Smith, Jr., poems about 12 female professional basketball

            players ("are you a Fire Starter like Chamique Holdsclaw?  Are you Double Trouble like

            Yolanda Griffith?  Or can you swat those balls away like flies, just like Margo Dydek?")


V) Children's Books about Poets and the Writing of Poetry


            A) Visiting Langston by Willie Perdomo, illustrated by Bryan Collier


            B) William Carlos Williams, from the Poetry for Young People series, edited by Christopher MacGowan, illustrated by Robert Crockett


            C) A Visit to William Blake's Inn by Nancy Willard


            D) Love That Dog by Sharon Creech


VI) An Entire Children's Book Devoted to One Poem


            A) Knoxville, Tennessee by Nikki Giovanni, illustrated by Larry Johnson


            B) hist whist by e. e. cummings, illustrated by Deborah Kogan Ray


VII) Poets Explaining How They Came to Write their Poems


            A) In the Land of Words by Eloise Greenfield, illustrated by Jan Sivey Gilchrist


            B) William Carlos Williams, from the Poetry for Young People series, edited by Christopher MacGowan, illustrated by Robert Crockett


            C) Gary Soto's A Fire in my Hands


            D) Kenneth Koch's Wishes, Lies and Dreams: Teaching Children to Write Poetry


            E) and Koch's Rose, How Did You Get so Red? (working with small children and

            writing poetry)


Return to Mr. Kendall's Main Page