Thursday, October 1, 2009

More Poetic Devices

Homework: Due Monday, October 5th
Write a descriptive poem about an abstract topic. Each class picked a topic. 6B chose "flying." 6D chose "winter." 6A chose "sacrifice." The poem should use concrete descriptive words to say something about that abstract topic. You can use as many poetic devices as you like, but try to use at least two. Some poetic devices are:

hyperbole (exaggeration)


a story
a list of descriptive words that don't have a point
a list of phrases such as: "Winter smells like __________,"
or "Thursday tastes like __________."

The idea is that you are practicing writing that helps the reader form a picture in their mind. When you say "justice," for example, every person who hears it will have a different picture in their head. You don't communicate your unique ideas about justice unless you give the reader some concrete, specific details to chew on.

A helpful hint is to think of an example, some specific instance which expresses the idea of justice for you. You can use memory. Maybe you were playing a game once and somebody cheated and got caught. This doesn't necessarily have to be an example from real life. You can use your imagination. What would it feel like to be an Olympic athlete who got third place because another athlete cheated? What would it be like to be the cheater? Or the judge who finds out? What would justice look like in this situation?

After you've imagined or remembered your scenario, think about what specific concrete details you can use to show the reader what you think about justice in that scenario. Let's use our Olympic athlete. I might list a bunch of words like sweat, aching legs, breath, etc. that describe how the athlete feels physically. I might think about where they are, what the weather's like, what the crowd sounds like, how the other athletes look. I might think about how the first gulp of water tastes after a hard race. Then I start thinking about how it feels to lose a race to someone who you know doesn't deserve to win. What are some concrete words I could use to describe that feeling? Is it painful? What else can I compare it to?

If you get stuck with your poem, just keep asking questions like What if? What else? What would that be like? How would it feel? And don't worry! It's just a poem.

When you think you're finished, read through your poem carefully and check for cliches. See if you can change a familiar-sounding word or phrase to one that's more vivid or interesting. For example, saying something is big doesn't tell us much. But enormous, gigantic, titanic, and huge say a lot more about the size of what you're describing.

Enough from me already. Get writing! I can't wait to read your amazing poems.

Today's class:
For our warmup, we wrote Exquisite Corpse poems. Each student wrote the first two lines of a poem on a sheet of lined paper, then folded it over so only the last line was visible. Then they passed it to their neighbor, who wrote the next two lines, folded it down, and passed it along. When the poem got to the first student, they unfolded it, wrote a title, and read it aloud. These came out great!

We also practiced our pronunciation with an alliterative tongue twister written by Lewis Carroll, who also wrote Alice in Wonderland. Here it is:

What a to-do to die today at a minute or two to two,
A thing distinctly hard to say but harder still to do.
For they'll beat the tattoo at a quarter to two: A rat-ta tat-tat ta tat-tat ta to-to.
And the dragon will come when he hears the drum
At a minute or two to two today, at a minute or two to two.

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