Many Poetry Friday bloggers who write for kids are also accomplished poets for adults. Irene Latham is one of those.
|Irene blogs at Live Your Poem.|
This summer, I have been savoring Irene's book The Color of Lost Rooms. Many of the poems are character sketches and persona poems, spoken in the voice of a character.
|Buy a copy!|
Putting the focus on a single person is somewhat like writing a focused image poem. The character (or the object, in focused image) represents a larger truth, but is distilled through one person.
I like this technique for writing poems about current events, particularly when trying to tackle a BIG event -- one that has affected the public consciousness.
If you've ever worked with teen writers, you know that they have a deep desire to write about social issues and events. It's an admirable goal and one we writing teachers should encourage.
However, teens often write about these things from a distance: generic soldiers marching as they hear gunfire, homeless children standing in the street. While these images are real, the media has made them familiar to the point of cliche. How, then, do we write about big events without generalizing?
One solution, write small. Write specific. Don't try to tackle the whole forest fire. Write about one house, one tree.
Take a look at how this works in Irene's simple, yet powerful poem, "After Katrina."
by Irene Latham
She loosens laces, widens mouth
of soggy shoes, then leaves them
to dry on the weathered railing where
they soon sprout pine straw
and a wren darts out -- four pink
eggs hidden just beneath the tongue.
She backs into the house, careful
not to let the screen door slap shut,
and for a heartbeat she is neither
grateful nor resentful, just a woman
pressing her toes into warm linoleum,
pulling apart a piece of day-old bread.
Posted with permission of the author.
Some discussion questions if you read this poem with your students:
- Would you have the same reading experience if this poem were titled, "The Wren?"
- Why did the poet leave Hurricane Katrina out of the poem itself, only referring to that disaster in the title?
- What does the wren symbolize to the woman in the poem?
The focus on one person's moment of normalcy when nothing feels normal gives the poem balance. This is a good lesson for high schoolers in particular, but also for any poet who aims to write about big topics and feels overwhelmed by the task.
If you'd like to read more poetry related to current events, check out the e-zine The New Verse News.