After finishing Chris Baron's middle-grade novel-in-verse, All of Me, I wholeheartedly recommended the book to my small group class of seventh- and eighth-grade creative writing students. I read them a couple of Baron's poems that illustrated how the conciseness and preciseness of poetic words can engage readers and reveal characters in ways that simple prose does not: poetic novels compel readers to interpret the subtle implications within each carefully chosen poetic word, as well as within the spaces around those words. What is not said outright in a poem, only suggested, often conveys meaning and tone as much as what is said. The ensuing discussion, prompted by my questions, such as "So what can we guess from this poem about Ari's relationship with...," led to a talk about how real friends should respond to shared pain, and how awkward it can be to share or hear deep secrets; how the best role models practice what they preach, while the worst ones act like hypocrites; and how strange it is that we never see ourselves the way others do, and how we might be less hard on ourselves if we could.
I then read to them, as a writing prompt, a section from one of Baron's poems (on pages 96-97 of All of Me), in which the protagonist's best friend describes "how you're supposed to look at art" in a way that leaves her "face beaming with joy." I asked them to write a poem about how to look at poetry. Below, in their own handwriting, unedited, are photos of the drafts that five of my middle-school writers produced in class. I was so pleased by the thoughtful words that I asked permission to photograph their poems and post them here. Now, please read their poems about how to read poems--how "meta," right?--and then reread them once you have learned how to do so!
Please leave your comments about what you have learned from these poets about poetry. They would love to know they've moved you in some way!