Tired of reading poems about death and love that have no rhyme scheme, rhythm, meter, or common sense? Experiment with concrete and dramatic forms of poetry.
I heard whimpering down the hall. It was coming from Mr. Gradenomor's classroom. I poked my head inside and saw Mr. Gradenomor in the fetal position under his desk. He was covered by student papers. "What's wrong?" I asked.
"Can't read another horrible poem..." he gasped.
I picked a paper up and read a student poem:
Your love is like the trees
floating in the breeze
Your love is like a dove
It fits me like a glove
Too bad I have to kill this bird
On my head it dropped a turd.
I had to help my colleague. I gave him some advise on teaching dramatic poetry and concrete poetry. I think I'll share those teaching ideas with you.
Teaching Dramatic & Concrete Poetry
In dramatic poetry the speaker is clearly somebody other than the poet. Dramatic poetry often contains dialogue and is sometimes written in the form of a play. This includes dramatic monologues (think Shakespeare). Other examples include "The Runaway" by Robert Frost, "Incident in a Rose Garden" by Donald Justice, "My Last Duchess" by Robert Browning, and anything written by Shakespeare.
Read and discuss several Shakespearean monologues. Have students write one of their own or update the language in one.
- Read a short story and convert it into a dramatic poem.
- Write a letter to yourself from a famous person. Convert the letter into a poem pretending it's the actual person who wrote the letter.
Concrete poetry is an excellent way to teach students the relationship between structure and content. In a concrete poem the shape of the poem suggests the poem's meaning or subject. Examples of include "A Christmas Tree" by William Burford and "Pendulum" by John Updike.
- Draw a picture of an ordinary object such as an umbrella, a pencil, an Ipod, or a cell phone. Next to it write a description. Convert the description into concrete poetry shaped like the picture. Make sure the words express meaning as a poem should.
- Make a list of various types of people. Write concrete poetry describing that person.