Collaborative Poetry

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Yes, it is here. National Poetry month is in full swing and there are many great ways to participate. On a whim the other night I invited my Facebook friends to generate a poem with me. I explained the rules in the following status:

Okay, let’s write a poem together. I’ll start, then you write the next line and then the next etc. I will start in the comment section. It doesn’t have to be profound just fun. (PLEASE)

Then I started with the following line:

My heart is breathing words,

I waited, patiently. Then the comments/poem lines started rolling in. Here is the poem we generated. The list of contributors is at the bottom of this post.

My heart is breathing words,
spilling onto the page without thought.
I write a lot of words, that only make sense to me.
Onto the page.
Words of unspoken love and hope,
Words of compassion and peace,
Words scrawled
Across the page, from the heart.
That lift effortlessly
Into the azure sky
Melting the frost
Of a long winter
That kiss the ground
And bloom the flowers
That bud the trees
And ruffle my hair
The words are mine alone, yet they speak to others
We form a bond with every verse. We change the world with every word.
Making in each word as if it were the last.
Beautiful words that touch the souls of stars that shine brightly

 

Wow! I was so impressed and realized there are a lot of closet poets out there. You might even be one of them. However, generating just a line for a poem is less intimidating than writing the whole thing yourself. I did this same activity with some students in kindergarten, first, second, fourth and twelfth grade. The outcome was amazing. For the younger students I had them start with a line from something they know! What is it like to be your age? What does someone a year younger than you need to know? Students wrote lines and we taped them together to make one big poem. In fourth grade we worked in small groups so we had three to four poems, but with the same formatted lesson.

With the twelfth graders I started with a mentor text. We listened to George Ella Lyon read her poem, Where I’m From. It is a beautiful poem. The students grabbed onto the idea of generating a line or two about where they are from and in small groups we taped them together to make poems titled Where We’re From. Their poems were astonishing, probably because I am used to kindergarten and first grade writers, but I think they even surprised themselves. If I had permission from the more than one hundred students I worked with I would share them, but instead I will challenge you to try this with your own students.

Show them poems and explain how one line supports the other, but doesn’t need to depend on the other in every poem. In a collaborative poem, such as these, the authors are much less aware of how their line will fit into the final outcome. However, it is a neat exercise and when you are finished there is a poem as the reward. I think it steps students into poetry in a way that doesn’t intimidate and yet encourages teamwork.

It might also be fun to bring your Facebook friends out in the open with poetry. You are one line away from something amazing. Try it! I’ve decided to make it a series of poems and post a line each night to see what happens. So far the poems have been inspiring and I notice one or two new people trying it out each evening. What a great way to connect and celebrate with poetry.

 

Thank you to the following Facebook contributors to the poem above.

Geri Williams, Margaret Gibson Simon, Jenna Burns, Anna O’Dell, Rebecca Whitson, Jefferson Matthews, Carrie Dunn, Shelley Hubbard and Robin Sheldon