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.

One Comment

  1. Lisa Henkel
    April 29, 2019 at 1:48 pm

    Thanks for this resource. A note of caution, however, since this doesn’t have a “grade-level” suggestion attached to the resource (at least that I could see). The Bukowski poem contains the line, “if you’re doing it because you want women in your bed”, which is suggestive content, and should be used judiciously, I believe, by anyone outside of high school (I teach middle school, and while it is a great poem, I would be anticipating negative parent feedback if I used this poem.) Just my opinion!

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