Blog, January 2–David Surette

Notes on Contributors

Classroom Poetry

My high school creative writing class is a half year course.  We spend the first quarter working on story and the second quarter, poetry.  The goal for first term is a five page short story and for second term, five poems.  I try to build on the lessons of the first term, but I want the students to know we’re after something different, that the poems aren’t just little stories.  So we don’t start with setting or character but with emotion.  We make lists of goodbyes, apologies, secrets, loves, loss, wishes, and wants. Then we write, searching for the story of the emotion. We next identify the images to soak our reader in the sensual world of our emotions, turning the story into 8 to 12 lies of poetry.  Next, the poets put pressure on that moment by considering the opposite, doubling the number of lines. This leads to the lyrical, I wonder moment. We call that the guitar solo. It’s where the poets let their words wonder, want, wish, hope, care… A lot of my student poets balk at this moment, but in time, feel themselves push through which is a very cool moment.  What we usually have is about 20 lines which is enough to inspire poetry craft lessons:  simile and metaphor, meter, line length, alliteration, word choice, ect.

I’ve read somewhere a poem should end with the sound a door makes when it closes; the meeting of door to jamb to the double click when the lock engages and clicks shut.  I try to expand this analogy by telling the students that the poem begins with the door opening to let in the sensual moment but more comes in than expected. The only thing to do then is to celebrate this unexpected moment and dance or sing or even mourn.  When the dance is over, out it goes with a door shut behind.  I’ve pasted three poems below fresh from this year’s class, passed in on the last day of class before Christmas break. They are the first drafts so I’ve not identified the authors. They are from both genders and are from three different grades. I hope you can see the lessons from the preceding paragraphs in the text but also have ideas about what more needs to be done, what craft lessons these drafts may inspire.

 

WGI WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP, DAYTON ARENA

My uniform is rough
but still so familiar.
Make-up done, hair in place,
feeling like someone else.
Equipment on my arm,
cold from the metal pole,
smooth from the saber blade,
silks soft against my arm.
Crowd silent, then a roar.
We walk out hand in hand.
Nerves too much to hold back.
Equipment set up.
Music like another breath.
Before we know it,
off with the crowd cheering,
Before we know it,
off with the coach speaking.

 

Addidas sweat pants
and Cavaliers t-shirt
soft against my skin.
My pony tail bounces
with each step repeated.
“Do it again!”
Exhaustion kicks in.
Slow moves and worn out body.
Sweat drips down our faces
from repeated dance moves.
Bruises cover our arms
like shirt sleeves
from tosses missed.

 

All I want is to sleep.
But we will do anything
to walk through that tunnel.

 

 

STEINBERGER PIANO KEYS

Yellow. Aged.  Teresa
plays an arpeggio.
I stand, feet planted
shoulders  back, a width apart,
trying to balance a book on
my head.  I fill my
diaphragm, relax my
tongue behind my teeth, lift
my soft palate, climb a
staircase, half steps, wobble
a C above the staff.
My fingers stumble across
the Yamaha, trudging
up and down the scale,
shoulders scrunched.  I fill
my chest, the sound constricted
pitchy.  I climb, trip and
plummet to the bottom,
breaking a leg, an arm,
a couple of fingers.
I hope my soprano
strengthens, breath control
with it so I can someday
stand on the stage
of the Boston Opera House.

 

 

 

PLAY BALL

I dig my black and white Nike cleats
into the dirt of the batter’s box like a bull stamping his feet.
Repositioning my navy blue helmet,
tightening my black Under Armour gloves,
I prepare for the pitch as he starts his
wind-up, arm over his head and he hurls the ball.
I step into it, the ball hitting
the sweet spot, flying over the shortstop’s head into
the grass of outfield as I sprint towards first.

 

I stand in the outfield and watch our pitcher throw
the ball to the  batter. When it makes contact
with the ball, I hear its earsplitting
crack like a blaring gunshot in the middle of the night.
The ball soars off the bat. I try to follow the ball against
The bright sunlight.  I position myself under the ball.
I hear a pop as the ball finds its way into my Rawling’s glove.

 

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  1. […] I’ve read somewhere a poem should end with the sound a door makes when it closes; the meeting of door to jamb to the double click when the lock engages and clicks shut.  I try to expand this analogy by telling the students that the poem begins with the door opening to let in the sensual moment but more comes in than expected.  The only thing to do then is to celebrate this unexpected moment and dance or sing or even mourn.   When the dance is over, out it goes with a door shut behind. More… […]