Poetry Exercises

I managed to take some pictures of the kids’ work near the end of my “Altered Book Anthologies” class–some of the kids really put a lot of creative effort into creating their books. It was definitely a challenge to get all of the kids on board, but after the first week, I’d say over 90% of them were invested in creating art and writing creatively. It was hard to work with little kids (4th grade-8th grade) and inspire them to be creative in a non-judgmental arena. They aren’t used to that sort of environment, and some of them took suggestions as criticism. But that’s what you get when you are working with gifted kids who feel the need to be “perfect” or have other learning issues. I do feel that they learned to trust me, and in turn, trust their own creative eyes.

While I thought it was much harder than my high school English teaching  job, I think that it was an important learning experience for me. I taught an art class! I got the kids to investigate nature and write about it. VERY COOL. Sometimes the most rewarding journeys are the most difficult and painful–and yes, I complained a ton about working because  I was uncomfortable doing it. But I proved to myself that I can do it, and that is what it’s about.

One girl, Emma, came up to me on the last day and told me that I was “her favorite teacher” and Altered Book Anthologies was “her favorite class.” She gave me a hug, and at that moment, it was all worth it. She also made my favorite book of the whole program–it was as if she was able to totally manifest what I wanted the class to be able to do–draw, paint, write, and create complementary art/ writing entries. She totally nailed it, and I was so proud of her.

So here are some photos from the kids’ anthologies…

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she pushes

a mouthful of watermelon

into her laughing jaws

the delicious cold penetrates

like novocaine

Mama would brush her daughter’s tendrils
as if she could fingerpaint the past away,
and her toddler would chocolate-smile and lick the brownie batter
while Mama’s haunted eyes never completely refocused.


This is inspired by the 4-line challenge hosted by The Arcanum Cafe (link below). In this exercise, poets must write only FOUR lines based upon a one-word prompt. In this case, the prompt is “cobwebs.”

Before leaving for work
I glance back at the bed–
Not too subtle, but you are asleep,
Dreaming of what, I can only imagine.

Under the covers, your form a smooth topography–
So tempting to rejoin you

There. Warm sheets, my lips pressed
On your shoulder like a just-licked postage stamp,
Greedy for more of your touch,
Eager to hear one of your sleepy sighs.
Tousled black hair, a shadowy corona encircling your
Head—I can feel its seductive softness
Even now, poised on the morning’s edge–I smile, and


He fed me pomegranate seeds
one by one; I felt the rubies burst
on my tongue–now I’m tethered here,
living a half-life, shrouded in darkness.


Poor Persephone, tricked into living with Hades for half of every year. I wrote this small poem in response to the Exercises and Challenges bulletin board posted on http://www.arcanumcafe.com

There, writers post a four-line poem that is inspired by one word left in a previous bulletin board post. I used the word “Underworld.”

She watches her lover sip the witches’ brew
with disgust, his familiar form silhouetted by the evening’s blue cloak.

Many twilights are spent the same way–
listening to the koi swish beneath the pond’s
mirrored-glass surface, time passing with each pucker
of their orange-black lips. Her fish friends speak a foreign language;

she believes that they murmur secrets about escape–

help trapped within bubbles that rise to the surface.
She leans in closer to capture the mysteries
and drown out the icy tinkle in his nearby glass
as he brings it to his lips, lost in his own rituals.


This was in response to a writer’s block challenge, for which you have to write a poem based upon words listed by a previous writer. The words I got–disgust, blue, many, glass, time, friends, help. Why don’t you give a poem a try using the same words?

Penciled dashes
smudged on the door’s wide frame
once scribbled next to the calendula-hued
crowns of their heads; time’s testament.

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