THE LAST FIFTH GRADE OF EMERSON ELEMENTARY

THE LAST FIFTH GRADE OF EMERSON ELEMENTARY
April 12, 2016

Friday, May 7, 2010

Poetry Friday: California's Poet Laureate

Happy Poetry Friday, everyone!

I know National Poetry Month is over, but I'm still finishing up my project. Today's stop on my 50 State Tour of poets laureate is California (state #31, 9/8/1850). There's a writing prompt at the end of the post.

The Golden State has had a poet laureate program since 1915. Current P.L  Carol Muske-Dukes' most recent book of poetry, Sparrow was a National Book Award finalist. It's about the her relationship with her late husband, David Dukes.

Through Muske-Dukes' website, you can access information on The Magic Poetry Bus. It's her P.L. project. Teachers, you'll want to check out the "techniques for learning and loving poems."

I love how her poem, "Twin Cities," begins with place and shifts into a portrait poem of a "wild funny girl" remembered from childhood.

Twin Cities
by Carol Muske-Dukes

It was the river that made them two—
The mills on one side,
The cathedral on the other.

We watched its swift currents:
If we stared long enough, maybe
It would stop cold and let us


Skate across to the other side.
It never froze in place—though
I once knew a kid, a wild funny

Girl who built a raft from branches
(Which promptly sank a few feet out
From the elbow bend off Dayton’s Bluff)

Who made it seem easy to believe.
We’d tried to break into Carver’s Cave,
Where bootleggers hid their hot stash

Years after the Dakota drew their snakes
And bears on the rock walls and canoed
Inside the caverns. We knew there were

Other openings in the cliffs, mirroring
Those same rock faces on the other shore—
And below them the caves, the subterranean

Pathways underlying the talk and commerce,
The big shot churches, undermining the false
Maidenliness of the convent school from which

My friend was eventually expelled for being
Too smart and standing up for her own smartness.
Too late, I salute you, Katy McNally. I think

That the river returned then to two-sidedness—
An overhung history of bottle-flash and hopelessness.
I see you still—laughing

Read the poem's conclusion at the New Yorker.

Writing exercise -- recommended for middle school and up.

Carol Muske-Dukes' poem "Twin Cities" begins by describing a specific place. The poets' feelings about this place are wrapped up in memories of a person, Katy McNally. Let's use Muske-Dukes form to write a portrait poem.

  1. Begin with a visual description of a place.
  2. Who do you associate with that place? Show what that person is doing there. (An action that reveals his/her character.)
  3. Return to describing the place and its history
  4. but end the poem with a reflection about the person.
Can't get enough poetry prompts? Poets Online is a poem from my book with a related prompt!

Our Poetry Friday host is Diane at Random Noodling. So heat up some ramen noodles and dig into today's poetry posts!

4 comments:

writer2b said...

Interesting... This gets me thinking about places and people, a very rich subject.

Wonderful poem, and I love your writing prompts too.

Author Amok said...

Thanks for the comment. So glad you enjoy the writing prompts.

I love how this poem weaves together place and person.

all things poetry said...

What an inventive way to structure a poem. Thanks for sharing this process and prompt! I will need to try this.

Laura Evans

Author Amok said...

I like the way she weaves back and forth between place and person. The section on cave paintings made me expect the poem to go in a historical direction, so the final stanzas were a wonderful surprise.