Sunday, February 1, 2015

Grammar Goes...Poetry Pops (In)

On Friday I finished teaching my first Brave Writer online course of 2015...which happened to coincide with the 15th anniversary of Brave Writer! The Groovy Grammar Workshop is the only course I teach that I didn't write myself; it's Julie's brilliant brain child. Grammar rules drilled into us since third grade melt away while we learn to play with words and create nonsense words--and even a nonsense poem! Grammar, after all, is about writing clearly and powerfully, and that philosophy underlies Julie's "topsy-turvy" approach to the grammar monster hiding under our school tables. If we learn to play with language, to experiment with strange word combinations, then we will learn to write more effectively...and with a panache that brings out the wordsmith in us all.

So Monday marks the beginning of the next phase of playing with the power of words: The Playing with Poetry Workshop.  I have been pleasantly surprised that this is my third course in a row to fill up and be closed before the class begins; the same happened with the MLA Research Essay class and Groovy Grammar. This closing of classes has never happened in my nearly thirteen years with Brave Writer, so I'm very pleased and blessed to have full classes. In this poetry workshop, we'll be writing all kinds of poems: the Japanese forms of haiku and tanka, shape and visual poems, traditional stanzas, and lots of "found" poems. Again, the emphasis is to experiment with the power of language, to have fun playing with words and phrases, exploring the musicality of words (even approaching song lyrics as poetry!), and simply enjoying the unbounded creativity inherent in each of us.

This class is especially fun because the moms (and quite often the dads, too) write their own poems along with their kids, so poetry becomes a true family activity. We advise that at the end of the workshop, the favorite poems be gathered, editing, and published in a family anthology of verse. What a memorable way to finish the course!

Last year, an eight-year-old student in our Playing with Poetry Workshop (with the help of her mother, of course) published an illustrated book for kids on writing poetry. Here's the link to Cassidy's book on Amazon: Roller Coaster: A Kid's Guide on How to Write Poetry. Isn't that amazing??!!

So as Playing with Poetry Workshop begins tomorrow, I thought I'd share my favorite poem with all of you. Despite my adoration for 19th century British literature, my two favorite poets are Americans, and my favorite poet is even from the 20th century. The brilliant e.e. cummings (1894-1962), both artist and poet, saw the world in a way that emphasizes the beauty in the ordinary. Each spring my mind quotes "[in Just-]-" as I work the winter soil in preparation for summer flowers and summer trips to the beach bring to mind "maggie and milly and molly and may." But this strange poem that I first encountered in my high school sophomore English class has been and probably always will be my favorite:

Flowers and Hat: Patchen Place by e.e. cummings (c. 1950)

[anyone lived in a pretty how town]
by e.e. cummings

anyone lived in a pretty how town
(with up so floating many bells down)
spring summer autumn winter
he sang his didn’t he danced his did.

Women and men(both little and small)
cared for anyone not at all
they sowed their isn’t they reaped their same
sun moon stars rain

children guessed(but only a few
and down they forgot as up they grew
autumn winter spring summer)
that noone loved him more by more

when by now and tree by leaf
she laughed his joy she cried his grief
bird by snow and stir by still
anyone’s any was all to her

someones married their everyones
laughed their cryings and did their dance
(sleep wake hope and then)they
said their nevers they slept their dream

stars rain sun moon
(and only the snow can begin to explain
how children are apt to forget to remember
with up so floating many bells down)

one day anyone died i guess
(and noone stooped to kiss his face)
busy folk buried them side by side
little by little and was by was

all by all and deep by deep
and more by more they dream their sleep
noone and anyone earth by april
wish by spirit and if by yes.

Women and men(both dong and ding)
summer autumn winter spring
reaped their sowing and went their came
sun moon stars rain


(For a printable copy and to listen to cummings read the poem, check this link:
"[anyone lived in a pretty how town]" --The Poetry Foundation)

So wishing you all as joyous a month [of poetry] as I will be enjoying!!

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