Thursday, October 8, 2009

Revise and Rewrite

Warmup: Students chose 2 items out of a list of boring phrases to rewrite poetically. The boring phrases:

1. The fire scared me.
2. Flowers bloomed near the house.
3. A small, colorful fish swam.
4. Something sad happened.
5. It was cold outside.

We shared some of the rewrites and talked about different ways to rewrite our poems to make them more exciting and meaningful. A favorite from 6B: "The fire tossed me up and caught me in its flames." Wow!

1. Appeal to the senses
2. Name names: be specific about things you're describing. What kind of tree is it? What kind of bird?
3. Show, don't tell. Your reader can figure out what you mean. Trust them, don't hit them over the head with meaning.
4. Figurative language adds spice.
5. Use concrete details in your descriptions, and be specific.
6. Filler words: search and destroy! Get rid of redundant words, or strings of words that over-explain, or words that don't say anything but that you just stuck in there to make a rhyme.

Students partnered up to read each other's concrete poems and give advice. The main thing you want to ask your partner is "Does this make sense?" If your partner can't tell you what the poem means, then it might be time for a rewrite. Your next task is to go through the poem one line at a time and ask "How does this line help the reader understand the meaning of the poem?"

One way to think about poetry is that it's like a mystery novel. You want your reader to do some of the work to figure out the mystery - the meaning of the poem - but you need to give them enough clues to do so. That's why it's good to get rid of filler words. Your reader doesn't know which words are important right away - you show them which ones are important to the meaning of the poem by making those words more interesting with figurative language, specific details, rhythm, and all the other poetic devices we've been talking about.

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