Friday, May 21, 2010

Writing an End of the School Year Poem

Howdy--and happy Poetry Friday!

Ellen Hopkins, author of Young Adult novels in poems Fallout, Tricks, Identical, Glass, Impulse, Burned, and Crank, uses interesting alignment in her poems. They are often layered, allowing the poem to say more than one thing, as if she were writing two poems at once.

An example of this is the poem, I had to Explain, in her book Crank.  On the left side of this poem are stanzas; on the right side are a words pulled from each stanza to make a parallel poem.  The words down the right side are:

first kiss
best kiss
that kiss
kiss so tender
kiss me again
fused by kisses

Writing Workout ~
Writing an End of School Year Poem

I've wanted to play with this form for some time.  So let's write a poem about the end of the school year!

I don't know how Ellen Hopkins approaches her poems, but here’s what I did:
1)    I flipped through my school year calendar, thinking about what happened each month.  Then I jotted down five events that brought up strong emotions.
2)    I chose one of the memories.
3)    I constructed a simple sentence (for the right side) that conveys some of what I wanted to say.
4)    I wove the words of this short sentence into the stanzas on the left side.
Here's a list of some of my memories from this past school year:
1)    The pre-launch very first-in-the-entire-world reading of New Year at the Pier on the beach at sunset—I was scared, it was cold and there weren’t very many people at the event (Can you blame them?  It was freezing!)  See photo above.
2)  Casting the three young actors for the launch of my book New Year at the Pier  (See a photo of them on the left side of my calendar page.)
3)    Driving to the grocery store in Kauai when my agent called my cell to tell me she loved my novel (!)
4)    Playing the tune Ashokan Farewell on my fiddle at the memorial service for my friend,  folk singer Fred Starner   
5)    Writing a poem a day for National Poetry Month…then continuing to write one a day for (hopefully) forever.  (I send these new poems each day to my best friend, author Bruce Balan, who is sailing around the world.)
So here’s my rough draft stab at this stucture—not a polished poem:
by April Halprin Wayland
They told me, “You’ll really have to project.xxxxxxxxIt
will be a big crowd—the last onexxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxwas
huge—at least a hundred people.
There were maybe twelve people.  I wasxxxxxxxxxxxstill
a nervous wreck, wondering
if they could hear me over the waves.
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxA beautiful
child with dark curls sat right in front. 
I focused on her.  I read the story as thexxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxsun set.
The next step would be to work on the words and the rhythm; to make it more lyrical.  (Lee Bennett Hopkins suggests taking out as many ands & thes as possible)
When you have a poem you like--ta-dah!  Waving your poem in the air, run, don't walk to someone who loves you and ask him or her to read it. 
And then?  Dive into summer!
poem and drawing (c) by April Halprin Wayland


Carmela Martino said...

Wow, I can feel the emotion in your poem, April (and empathize with it!) Your "rough drafts" are pretty powerful. Thanks for sharing with us.

Doraine Bennett said...

I love this. Can we see the finished product after you revise?

laurasalas said...

I've long wanted to play with poems within poems like Ellen Hopkins does (and Helen Frost, too). This so cool! Thanks for sharing your process, April. I really enjoyed your poem and the slightly forlorn feel to it.

Laura said...

Congrats, April, on your prelaunch!!!

Also, I'm glad you shared your process, too. I find it fascinating the many different ways people come to poetry.

Thanks for sharing your poem. I'd love to read the finished copy, too.

Laura Evans
all things poetry

April Halprin Wayland said...

Thanks for your comments, Carmela, Doraine and Laura.

I'm embarrassed to say that there is a trail of half-finished poems in my files!

If I do polish this poem so that it shines, I will post it!

Linda said...

Thank you, April, for another great writing activity! I'm going to try it with my seventh graders the week after Memorial Day (We have 3 more weeks of school and a bunch of timed writings, reading tests, etc. yet to do. We'll be ready for something meaningful and fun by then!). I can't wait to see what they come up with!

April Halprin Wayland said...

Dear Linda (and anyone else reading this!)I'm so glad you're going to try it...I'd love to see what your students--or you--come up with!