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National Poetry Month is ending... or is it?

It’s the end of National Poetry Month! For the second in-service course I am teaching this year, called Creative Connections: Art & Writing, I had three poetry/art lessons planned that I’m super excited about, based on: Blackout Poetry, Paint Chip Poetry, and Concrete Poetry. Unfortunately we only completed one during April, but that’s okay. We’ll continue a poetry focus in May, yay! One of my teacher-students is a middle school English teacher who hates poetry. My goal was to win him over with at least one of these methods… and I think I did!

Session 1: Blackout Poetry

I relate blackout poetry with creating a sculpture by carving away at a piece of stone or wood, or carving a design out of a piece of linoleum when printmaking. You start with the whole, and take away what you don’t need. Of course, first you need to look at your block of wood, or block of text, and see what it wants to become, right? So, find those interesting image-producing, emotion-tugging words and phrases, and get rid of what you don’t need to get your idea, feeling, mood, thought, or wondering, across.

We used pages from a book that my school library was giving away. It felt a bit sacrilegious to tear pages from a book, but it was for a learning opportunity, so we considered it to be okay. Plus, it was about a sultan that married a new wife each night and then killed her the next morning because he was once betrayed – wow – so I kind of felt like that content might be a little harsh for elementary school anyway… not that I want to be getting rid of books, but hey, we needed some pages, so I thought it was a decent choice.

Anyway, probably because of the author’s theme and word choice, we had a hard time creating positive poems. Which is totally fine. Here’s the process we used:

1. Lightly circle interesting words.

2. Choose some more that connect to it in some way, producing the emotion or connecting the thought or feeling that you want to portray.

3. Then block out the rest of the text, either with a simple black line, or with any type of art you’d like to create. One of my students also did some cutting and pasting to get the positive flower design she had in mind.

What I love is how artistic you can be if you choose to, or not. It's also nice sometimes to start with a confining structure, or group of words that you are forced to make work.

Here are some of our results:

I hope to share more poetry/writing & art connections next time!

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