April 12, 2016

Friday, July 24, 2009

Poetry Friday Portraits

Portrait and persona poems are endlessly fascinating -- just like the people who inspire them.
One of my favorite poetry exercises for middle school and up: clip photos of people out of newspapers or magazines. Have each student choose one that makes him/her ask, "What's the story here?" Then write an imagining of that person's story.
What if the "person" in your photo isn't really a person?
Maryland poet MiMi Zannino spotted this beauty at an antique market and had to give her voice (and take her picture). Here is MiMi's portrait poem, "Heavy Metal Mermaid."
Heavy Metal Mermaid
You must understand my position
casting me in this untenable pose
wrought into your mermaid fantasy.
Set the pros and cons on scales
and weigh the truth against fiction.
Make a decision before the rust
bleeds into my bronze
weakening my steely disposition.
MiMi is my fellow Maryland State Arts Council poet-in-the-schools. Here at the Maryland Poetry Out Loud finals. You can read her full bio below.
More recent posts on portrait poems:
Hal Sirowitz's "Crumbs" from Mother Said. (There is another classroom poetry lesson/writing exercise posted with "Crumbs.")
Have a happy Poetry Friday, everyone. More poetry at A Year of Reading. Stop by and visit our hosts Franki & Mary Lee.
Author, educator, and photographer MiMi Zannino has been a poet-in-residence with the Maryland State Arts Council since 1989. Her writing workshops include “Emily Dickinson: Mother of American Poetry” a dramatic portrayal of the 19th century poet. Her books include “Keeping Memories Alive,” an easy-to-use interactive resource for families, grief camp counselors, and school professionals who are helping a child through the emotions surrounding the death of a loved one. Information about her books and programs for adults and children can be found at or by emailing


Mary Lee said...

This is a great new poetry "form" that I'll use with my students next year!

Author Amok said...

Enjoy, Mary Lee. I'm going to post more samples (and lessons) soon. Look for a portrait poem by Shonto Begay next week. What age group do you work with?

Linda said...

You are right, persona poems work great with middle school kids. They are often hesitate to share views different from their peers, and this is one way to give them that opportunity.

Author Amok said...

Thanks for leaving the comment, Linda. I love the idea of speaking for a not-quite person like MiMi's mermaid.