Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Prompted by Poignancy: More Students' Works!

I offered some middle-schoolers this poem as a writing prompt: "Listen," by Miller Williams, which ends with the line: "I've had some trouble putting it out of my mind." The poignant poem recalls a narrator tricking his dog into playing fetch with a snowball, and then feeling guilty about watching the poor dog run in circles to find the disintegrated snowball on the snow-covered ground. I suggested that my students write a poem or short story with Williams's same last line, to capture a similarly poignant event. Here is the moving poem that J.C., a 7th grader, created with this prompt.

"If Only"
by J.C., age 12

I was reading a book when it happened
Didn't feel like leaving my book to find nothing
Figured it was the wind
The forest of branches around my house trying to break in

But still the tapping persisted
The rapid knocks only growing faster and faster
And finally when I heard a tortured cry
Did I care to go see
There, with its wing at an awkward angle, a baby bird, crying pitifully
Drumming the sliding glass door

I brought it to the vet
They later told me the bird was gone
Told me he--for it was a he--
Almost made it
If only we had 2 more minutes, they said
If only you could have driven a little faster, they said
If only I didn't ignore it, I said

I've had some trouble putting it out of my mind

Another prompt for middle-schoolers was my own poem, "Aah!," which explores the many ways that exclamation is used, with different tones depending upon the context eliciting the "aah!" I suggested that students find a similar exclamation, often uttered in various tones that convey different scenes. Here is what 11-year-old S.V. wrote:

By S.V., age 11

“Wow! Thanks so much!”
Who could that be?
A little girl finally getting the much-longed-for, glamorous, pink tutu?
Or was it…a teenage girl who just won the dance contest for which she had practiced so, so much?

“Wow. You have got to be kidding me.”
Who could that be?
The same little girl who just realized the tutu wasn’t for her?
Or was it…the teenage girl sadly discovering that actually, she had lost by one point?

“Wow! I can’t believe it!”
Who could that be?
The beaming little girl hugging the new, even more gorgeous tutu that her parents just gave her?
Or was it…that teenage girl who found out that the judges had miscalculated and that she had won?

Wow…I didn’t know “wow” could be said that many ways!