April 12, 2016

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Prose Poem or Flash Fiction?

One of my favorite lessons this year was the portrait poem. I put it back on my school workshop menu after a long hiatus.

At St. Jane Frances School, teacher Pat Habicht and I brought books, fine art transparencies and photographs cut out from the newspaper for students to write about.

In this lesson, I tell students to first describe everything they see. Then, imagine the photo or painting is a television screen on pause. What happens when they press "play?" What does the person in the image do next?

Michael E. wrote in response to a painting from poet/artist Shonto Begay's wonderful book Navajo.

This could be a poem, if Michael works on line breaks. But it could also be the opening of a short story.

That's fine with me. The important thing in a first draft is getting ideas on paper. The author can decide what the piece will be later.


by Michael E.

They are going to the rodeo, plowing down a long desert highway. The rider is in the back, with stores of food and tools, resting on the spare tire. Sore and tired after many rodeos, but it’s how he makes his money. He’s reading a magazine, dozing sometimes into a sleep. His friend sits opposite him snoring. The men and women in the front talk quietly amongst themselves.

Posted with permission of the poet and his family.

I can imagine the dialogue that comes next, what the men and women in the cab are saying about the rodeo rider while they think he's sleeping. 

More middle school poems are on the way as we count down to National Poetry Month.

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