Friday, September 11, 2009

9-11 Lesson Plan: Stand on Your Head

9-11-01. Man-o-man.

Write a poem for Poetry Friday about it? I tried. But it was sooooooo big, I didn’t know how to get my arms around it.

So I tried looking at it a differently:


two towers

grow out of the ground
and bloom

© April Halprin Wayland

It’s hard for me to write about the big stuff.

Here's a quote from a book by Tim Page called Parallel Play–Growing Up With Undiagnosed Asperger’s:

“Not only did I not see the forest for the trees; I was s
o intensely distracted that I missed the trees for the species of lichen on their bark.”

Yeah—me, too!It’s easier for me to write about the intimate, the personal, the small stuff. I have to start by writing about my backyard before I can write about war.

So, for example, if I wanted to write about a big hard-to-get-my-arms-around-it topic like LOVE, I might write about the day we brought our dog Rosie home from the shelter.

But what if I stand on my head to look at this topic? Maybe I can write about love by describing what it feels like to lose it.


The lady who opened the cage cried

and the guy behind the counter
reached out to touch your bristly hair one last time,
and the vet came out in her white coat,

held your face in her hands,

looked into your Cleopatra-lined eyes,

and solemnly kissed your nose good-bye.

Then she handed me

your leash

and the thing that

the lady who opened the cage
and the guy behind the counter
and the vet
were about to miss

jumped into the backseat with me

drove home with me

raced around the grass with me
and the thing they are missing

is here with me now
licking my face,
licking my lucky face.

(c) April Halprin Wayland

Here’s another example of writing about something by thinking about what's missing when it's not there:


Opening the front door,

there is no small sound of clicking nails
on the wooden floor
no bright eyes
no jumping, dancing dog.

I have opened a pomegranate

and found no ruby seeds —

only this


published in Cricket Magazine—November, 1999
© April Halprin Wayland

So if you are stuck trying to write something about 9-11 or any other subject, try standing on your head!

Writing Workout / Lesson Plan—
Standing A Topic on its Head
For ages 7 through adult (or younger, with individual help.)

This lesson teaches writers how to stand on their heads and look at something in a new way.


1) Brainstorm on paper a memory of an event that rocked your personal world. Jot down whatever comes to mind, writing quickly. Don't worry about neatness or spelling or complete sentences--you're making notes for yourself, not anyone else.

You might think about:

when you did something that made you feel grown-up—

maybe you helped paint the kitchen.
Or you did something that helped someone solve a problem.

when something scary happened—
maybe your dog ran away.
Or your parents separated.

when something joyous happened—
maybe your family moved into a nice home.
Or you learned how to skateboard or read.

2) Take a deep breath.

3) Circle one event you want to write about.

4) Now, stand on your head. Think about this event backwards or sideways or if it had happened differently---and how you would be changed as a result.

5) Write honestly. Write with joy!

Maybe that's the best way to address 9-11...write honestly and write with joy.
Out and About
It's nearly Rosh Hashanah!

On Saturday, September 12th New Year at the Pier--A Rosh Hashanah Story will be read on the radio program HALFWAY DOWN THE STAIRS by the one and only Uncle Ruthie on KPFK in Los Angeles & Santa Barbara.

Also on Saturday, September 12th from 3-5 pm: my bricks-and-mortar book launch for New Year at the Pier--a Rosh Hashanah Story, including a playlet featuring elementary school kids(the play will be around 3:30-ish)at Hillside Pharmacy in Manhattan Beach, CA (our local independent bookstore cleverly disguised as a pharmacy)

For more events, check out my calendar!

Wild Rose Reader is hosting the Poetry Friday Roundup.
all drawings by April Halprin Wayland


debbie said...

I love this post - especially your haiku.

Happy New Year!

Sara said...

Thank you. I tried this today for Poetry Friday.

Sarah Campbell said...

I'm going to try this, too. Great idea. I love your poems.

jama said...

Loved this post. Your poems are perfect!

Irene Latham said...

Love love love the pomegranate. Reminds me of a poem I first read on the Poetry 180 site called The End of April by Phyllis Levin.

Clara Gillow Clark, Author said...

I love this post about writing poetry in such a joyful way! I've been exchanging a poem a week for the past year with my friend and fellow author,Claudia Mills, and I'm going to share your blog with her.