My afternoon session, “Writing from the Heart: Finding Your True Voice,” at the TCRWP Writing Institute was taught by James Howe (aka: Jim). During the course of the week Jim provided us with a variety of writing exercises, which lasted from 5 – 20 minutes, to help us write from the heart. One of the many exercises he gave us was:
Use a news story you’ve connected with emotionally to see where it takes you.
I didn’t bring a newspaper with me that day, but I did bring my iTouch, which has The New York Times App on it. I went to my saved articles and found one that resonated with me several months earlier. I found myself writing non-stop about Samuel G. Freedman’s “A Jewish Ritual Collides with Mother Nature,” which is an article that elicited a strong reaction from me when I read it months earlier. (Hence the reason I saved it.)
When we finished the exercise, Jim provided us with time to share our writing with one another. He walked around, like all good teachers of writing, to listen-in to our conferences. He stopped near me and I told him about the piece I was working on. I told him that it mattered to me, but I didn’t know what to do with it. After listening intently, he suggested that I write a rant poem. Jim said that a rant poem is a way to work through an emotional response to an article; it’s a way to channel a response through the person you are.
Then, since I wasn’t exactly sure what a rant poem was, Jim read a rant poem he wrote, “Teenage Girls Stand by Their Man,” in his forthcoming book Addy on the Inside. (NOTE: Addy on the Inside is a follow-up to The Misfits and Totally Joe. It will be out this fall.) The poem captured Addy’s reaction to an article she read (also from The New York Times) that resonated with her. Once I heard Jim read the rant poem from Addy on the Inside I instantly realized this is a genre I could not only try out myself, but one that we can teach young writers to try, when the time is right, as well.
Want to learn how to write a rant poem? Click here for an overview.
If you’re not so sure a rant poem is for you, but still want to vent about an issue, then consider expressing your opinion in the essay-like fashion of the “Complaint Box,” which is a weekly feature in The New York Times. A recent Complaint Box piece that I enjoyed was entitled, “It’s a Beach, Not a Landfill. So Use the Trash Bin.” The Times accepts Complaint Box submissions about things that “have you all wound up.” Go online to learn more about how to submit a piece of writing, in 500 words or less, about something that has you steamed.
Literacy Consultant. Author. Former 4th and 5th Grade Classroom Teacher.