How Do You Make a Poem?


Boy_hand smileJudith Lachance-Whitcomb (March 2013)

Your homework tonight is to write a poem. You’ve chosen your topic because you know poems can be about anything. You really like your topic and want to write about it. You are ready to write. But you stop; you wonder,


Did Mr. Nesbitt’s poem, On the Thirty Third of Jan”uaugust make you laugh? (see below) Mr. Nesbitt is a well-known poet who writes many poems on many topics that make us laugh. Have you ever read a poem that made you sad? Or one that made you feel dreamy? If you want to write a poem, you need to think, “How do I want my readers to feel when they read my poem?” Maybe you have decided to write a poem about a bird. Will it be a funny bird, a beautiful bird flying through the clouds, or a sad bird who has lost its nest? Of course, whenever you write, you think about how you want your readers to feel. So, what’s different about a poem?

How do you know a poem when you see one? It looks different, right? Usually, a poem is made up of short lines (shorter than the ones we write in a paragraph). The lines are often put together in groups called stanzas. Mr. Nesbitt’s poem has five stanzas. But some poems don’t have stanzas. Another thing about the lines in a poem – there may be one sentence that is separated into two, three, or more lines. Sometimes, there may not be sentences in a poem at all! Just words and phrases. In some poems, the words make shapes, and in other poems the words are scattered all around.

You’re probably thinking that for sure a poem has rhyming words. Well, some do. Mr. Nesbitt rhymed the end words in the second and fourth line of each stanza. As you look through this book, though, you’ll see poems that don’t rhyme at all.

Don’t poems have any rules? Well, yes, most do. Some have very strict rules. Some rules tell you where you have to put the rhyming words, some tell you how many sounds you may have in each line, like the haiku. A haiku has three lines. The first line has five syllables, the second has seven syllables and the last has five syllables. We have a poem in this book that uses a group of haiku to describe seasons of the year. But you know what? Some poems have no rules at all.

Now you’re probably thinking, “Okay, so how am I suppose to make a poem when some poems have sentences, some do not; some have stanzas, some do not; some poems rhyme and some poems do not; some poems have rules and some do not? What in the world do I need to know to make a poem?” Ready? Here it is: all poems need words that sing. Think about the last time you heard someone read a poem. It probably reminded you of a song. That’s because all poems have something special: words that build pictures and flow with rhythm like songs do. In fact, songs are poems. Create your poem’s rhythm by repeating lines, or words, or sounds. Pay attention to how you arrange your words so that they create that rhythm. If you don’t hear a rhythm, play with the words, move them around until you hear them “sing”.
                                                  THEN YOU HAVE A POEM.


On the thirty third of Januaugust,
right before Octember,
a strange thing didn’t happen
that I always won’t remember.

At eleven in the afternoon,
while making midnight brunch,
I poured a glass of sandwiches
and baked a plate of punch.

Then I climbed up on my head to see
the silver sky of green,
and danced around my feet because
I’d turned eleventeen.

A parade began to end
and music started not to play,
as rain came out and snowed all night
that warm and sunny day.

That was how it didn’t happen
as I keenly don’t remember,
on the thirty third of Januaugust,
right before Octember.

Kenn Nesbitt
Copyright © 2012 All Rights Reserved

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