Aren’t these word pictures beautiful and surprising? Each poem was written by kids like you! They help us look at familiar things in a new way through a special tool of language called a simile. Each image compares two very different things using the word “like,” and the writers discovered something those images have in common that we recognize too. Similes and other tools of writing make poetry enjoyable to read and create.
The first simile was written by 9-year-old Simeon J. and the second, by his sister, Chloe.
The third was by Zeke G. They were with other homeschooled students who recently met at Red Oak Baptist Church in Harrison, Arkansas, for a dynamic and fun poetry workshop led by poet and teacher Suzanne Rhodes of Fayetteville.
“When we talk about poetry,” Suzanne said, “we’re talking about language that sings and words
that are charged with meaning and emotion.” Then she read two poems. The first was from one of her books and was called “The Way My Grandmother Peeled a Potato.” The other, by John Ciardi, was humorous — “Mummy Slept Late and Daddy Fixed Breakfast.” Both poems used imagery, or words that appeal to the senses, and similes and metaphors.
Poetry also uses rhythm and words with musical sounds like “twisted piece of wood,” as Isabella C. wrote in her poem, “Driftwood.”
Suzanne let the kids choose an object from several she’d gathered from the beach — a couple of pieces of driftwood, sea glass, sea pottery, a sand dollar, a shell, a yellow rock. The children had to study the objects and record their observations as a scientist might. What color is it? What shape and texture? What markings? Next, they had to reflect on those things, not as scientists, but as poets. What does your object remind you of? Is there a story with your object? Then they wrote down those ideas.
A good way to start a poem is to ask a question, and this is how the students began their object poems.
Suzanne gave one more assignment — this one a little on the crazy side. She handed out newspapers, scissors, glue sticks and cardstock. The students paired off to nd random words and headlines that spoke to them, then cut the words and letters out and spread them around.
They looked for interesting or funny ways to arrange the words to make a poem. Once they came up with something they liked, they glued the words to the paper.
“Clouds move like sauntering snails.” “Night fell like a vulture, swift and black.” “The braid hung down her back like a rope.”
The poem written by Ava H. uses many images and a stunning simile (can you spot it?) to describe a shell in the ocean. But she goes even farther and relates the shell to all of us and what we can learn from it.
The Life of a Shell
What is it like to be a shell?
What is it like to be carried with the waves?
It is like dancing I suppose,
Seeing the shimmer of the waves above like dancing coins,
Beautiful arrays of pink and blue. Things live inside of you, shell, Small creatures needing shelter. You welcome them.
You were created for this purpose and you accept it without struggle.
You see wonders,
As the things inside of your pink walls grow and move away,
New things need a home just as the one before.
Growth is beautiful.
May we all be like shells,
Welcoming the good in and guarding things that should not.
As you grow older shell,
You set an example for the other shells, You teach them wisdom.
In Chloe’s poem “Scarcity,” she uses a musical device called alliteration to create some musical sounds. Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds in the words. Can you identify some of the beginning sounds that are alike?
What were you like, little blue shard before you shattered?
A carefully crafted masterpiece, created on shore
Ending by some misfortune in the murky, rocky depths
Once a beautiful, miraculous whole, now a glimpse of minuscule blue triangle precious in its scarcity
How brave you’ve been, to travel alone, so far,
To find your way to me.
Here’s the poem Isabella and Chloe created:
Leap of courage
Friendship changes life into a fulfilling treasure because seeking community supports peace.
Here is 12-year-old Lukas J.’s, inspired by a piece of frosty sea glass:
What were you used for, blurred little jug?
With your smoothed rim and jagged body,
What happened to you on your voyage?
You might have been used for water
Or milk, or was it something else altogether?
What have you seen, faded piece of a jug?
Was it starfish or goldfish, shark or whale?
Was it a plain rock that broke you?
Your journey among the splashing waves has ceased and a new life has begun.
Lydia, Lukas’ sister, wrote a clever rhyming poem. You can tell she had a lot of fun talking to the yellow rock.
What You Are
Are you a petrified lemon?
Oh wait, that’s not it!
You’re more like a hard candy
That refuses to be bit.
Are you a snake’s eye?
No, that just cannot be.
Maybe you’re a gem
Passed down through history.
You remind me of cream soda
That fizzes and foams
And of a steep cliffside
On which a bird roams.
In the end it doesn’t matter
Why you’re here, what you are.
The joy that you bring
To me is so bizarre.
Besides inspiring the kids to write imaginatively, the workshop led to other good things. Ava said, “I love how the class not only taught about how poetry makes you feel, but how it also makes you use your other senses too!” Lukas said, “It was a fun workshop, and I’ve been writing a lot more poetry because of it.” And Lydia thought the workshop “was really inspiring and made me look at poetry in a different way.”
Suzanne is available to come to your school or group and do a poetry workshop. Contact her at email@example.com.