Reading Poems about Writing

The following guest post, part of our “Teacher’s Corner” series, is by Rebecca Newland, a Fairfax County Public Schools Librarian and former Teacher in Residence at the Library of Congress.

Mrs. Rose Pastor Stokes at desk writing.

Mrs. Rose Pastor Stokes at desk writing. Bain News Service, n.d.

It may be the end of National Poetry Month, but it is not too late to bring some poetry into your high school classroom or library.

As I have discussed in previous posts, I think students should both read and write poetry. This month I suggest reading two poems about writing.

The first is “Trickle Drops” by Walt Whitman, a poem I love and have suggested using to prompt students to think about word choice. While this poem is not explicitly about writing poetry, I believe it is a valid interpretation that Whitman is comparing bleeding to writing. The second is “so you want to be a writer?” by Charles Bukowski, which is about writing, but not necessarily writing poetry.

Offer students copies of both poems. Begin by reading each poem aloud so students have the opportunity to listen. Next ask them to read independently and make note of thoughts or ideas the poems prompt. Next move students into pairs or small groups to share ideas. Consider whether students will be distracted by interacting with two poems at once. If so, offer each separately before asking students to think about the questions below.

Ask the groups to specifically discuss:

  • What words or phrases caught your attention? Why?
  • What do the poems have in common?
  • What message do you think each poet is trying to convey? Why do you think so?
  • What else do you think is significant about what each poet is saying? Why?

Challenge students to write about writing, or ask them to search for and read other poems about writing.

A Big Moment for Our Nation’s Poets Laureate

This week there was some exciting national Poet Laureate news that we’re eager to share: The Academy of American Poets announced the awarding of its Laureate Fellows. According to the Academy’s website, fellows were selected “in recognition of their literary excellence and to help support their civic projects. Each has served as a Poet Laureate […]

The Evolution of Walt Whitman’s “O Captain! My Captain!”

The following post was written by Cheryl Lederle, Barbara Bair, and Victoria Van Hyning of the Library of Congress. It originally appeared on the Teaching with the Library of Congress blog. The Library of Congress will celebrate the 200th anniversary of Whitman’s birthday in spring 2019 with a series of exhibits, public programs, and a digital crowdsourcing […]

Tracy K. Smith Bids Farewell as U.S. Poet Laureate

The following post is by Neely Tucker, a writer-editor in the Library’s Office of Communications. It originally appeared on the Library of Congress blog. Tracy K. Smith concluded her remarkable term as U.S. Poet Laureate with a speech and on-stage conversation at the Library of Congress Monday night, capping two years of travel, podcasts and community conversations across the […]

My Sprig of Lilac

The following guest post is by Barbara Bair, historian in the Library’s Manuscript Division. This is the second in a series of blog posts exploring the life and work of Walt Whitman. The Library of Congress will celebrate the 200th anniversary of Whitman’s birthday in spring 2019 with a series of exhibits, public programs, and a […]

Exploring Poetry through Moving Image and Recorded Sound

The following is a guest post by Karen Fishman, Research Center Supervisor for the Recorded Sound Research Center and the Motion Picture and Television Research Center at the Library of Congress. It originally appeared on Now See Hear! The National Audio-Visual Conservation Center Blog. In addition to celebrating jazz music, April is also designated National […]

Wound Dressing: Walt Whitman in Washington

The following guest post is by Barbara Bair, historian in the Library’s Manuscript Division. This is the first in a series of blog posts exploring the life and work of Walt Whitman. The Library of Congress will celebrate the 200th anniversary of Whitman’s birth with events and exhibits in May and June (to be announced). […]