writing workshop

Big Picture Series: Poetry Matters

Poetry Matters

March 2009’s Voices from the Middle included an article by Georgia Heard entitled “Celestino:  A Tribute to the Healing Power of Poetry. ”  In typical Georgia Heard style, the article is both eloquent and poignant.  Early in the article Heard writes,

One of the reasons to invite poetry into our lives and into the lives of our students is to meet our invisible guests — grief, joy, anger, doubt, and confusion.  We read poetry from this deep hunger to know ourselves and the world (10).

Poetry, more than any other genre, helps us to make sense of those things in our world that seem unexplainable.  Heard encourages us to challenge students to find poetry that will inspire them to write.  She asks students to “find a poem that tells the truth about their lives, their selves, or some part of themselves nobody even knows.”  Heard refers to these poems as “self-portrait poems” (9).

This kind of immersion experience in poetry is powerful because it helps students connect to poetry, as well as to each other, strengthening the community of writers.  I would like to extend the invitation for you to try this with your students, but first to try it for yourself.  Will you find a “self-portrait poem” and then post it in the comments with a little explanation?  (You could also post on your blog and then link to the comments.)  I can hardly wait to learn more about our community of writers!  Thanks in advance for joining.

Here is mine:

The Art of Living Well 

 Love life.

Take great pleasure
in small offerings.

Believe that
the world
owes you nothing.

that every gift given to you
is exactly that.

Realize that people
who differ from you
can be founts of fun.

 This poem is a tribute to all that I’ve learned about life and about people.   The last stanza rings true, as I’ve found those who seem to be the most “unlikely of friends” are often the best in my life.  (Stacey is a prime example . . . you probably couldn’t find two people more different than us & yet, I can think of few who are as good a friend as she!)

3 thoughts on “Big Picture Series: Poetry Matters

  1. This poem really speaks to me as a woman and a single mom. This last year has been one of my hardest and in the process of becoming my authentic self in my personal life, I have found a new confidence in my professional life-to stand up for what I know is right in the classroom.

    Still I Rise

    You may write me down in history
    With your bitter, twisted lies,
    You may trod me in the very dirt
    But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

    Does my sassiness upset you?
    Why are you beset with gloom?
    ‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
    Pumping in my living room.

    Just like moons and like suns,
    With the certainty of tides,
    Just like hopes springing high,
    Still I’ll rise.

    Did you want to see me broken?
    Bowed head and lowered eyes?
    Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
    Weakened by my soulful cries.

    Does my haughtiness offend you?
    Don’t you take it awful hard
    ‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
    Diggin’ in my own back yard.

    You may shoot me with your words,
    You may cut me with your eyes,
    You may kill me with your hatefulness,
    But still, like air, I’ll rise.

    Does my sexiness upset you?
    Does it come as a surprise
    That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
    At the meeting of my thighs?

    Out of the huts of history’s shame
    I rise
    Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
    I rise
    I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
    Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
    Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
    I rise
    Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
    I rise
    Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
    I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
    I rise
    I rise
    I rise.

    Maya Angelou


  2. My self-portrait poem is “The Other Side of the Door” by Jeff Moss. It represents the person I become when I close the door to my classroom… and the kind of kid I hope my students become when they cross the threshold every morning.


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