Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Immersed in Verse

Thanks, Kate Hendrix for a nonfiction reflection.

Wolf, A. (2006). Immersed in verse: An informative, slightly irreverent & totally tremendous guide to living the poet’s life. New York, NY: Lark Books.

“Poems are all around us, waiting to be written.  The world teems with words, images, ideas, sights, sounds, colors, anecdotes, notions, and emotions” (Wolf, 2006).
What a spectacular book on which to write my final assignment for my master’s degree in secondary education!  A published poet himself, Allan Wolf has managed to turn the process of writing poetry into a fun and (seemingly) easy enterprise – something that anyone, young or old, could do.  Immersed in Verse is not a poetry book nor is it a textbook covering the elements or types of poetry.  Instead, throughout the course of this informative and entertaining book, Wolf takes his readers on a step-by-step journey through the a poet's world. 

Immersed in Verse begins by describing what he calls the “three essential elements of a poet’s life: a bloom, a boom, and a secret room.”  Curious about what those are?  Read the book!  You won’t be sorry!  He then goes on to explain how a poem takes shape, and he describes the different kinds of poets – from the beat poet to the angry poet, from the secret poet to the professor poet.  In so doing, he shows readers that anyone can be a poet and that they may be a different kind of poet on on any given day.  Then, he outlines the various types of poetry, but, rather than spending his time defining strict poetic forms in terms of rhyme scheme, meter, and number of lines as in sonnets, haiku, ballads, etc. as a textbook would, he instead chooses to discuss the forms in more general and accessible terms, as long poems or short poems, sad poems or funny poems.  For the most reluctant of poetry scholars, Wolf walks readers through how to read a poem…it’s no use trying to write a poem if you don’t know how to read a poem, right?  
In one of my favorite parts of the book, Wolf defines his “Nine Habits of Highly Successful Poets.”  Not only are these excellent tips for budding poets and writers, but they are also great tips for life in general!  For example, one “habit” is to “live life as if only two things matter…You…[and] The World.  He explains that poets should always actively reflect on who they are as well as be constantly aware of what’s going on in the world around them.  What wonderful advice to students who oftentimes are so focused inward (many times on negatives) that they tend to forget to be aware of the world that surrounds them.   Want to know what the other eight habits are?  READ THE BOOK! 
All this background information is all well and good, but how do poets actually go through the process of writing their poetry?  Wolf has an answer for that question, too.  As the reader, I followed along with him through every step of writing a poem, from his original inspiration through to the final product.  His description of the process reads very much like the Think Aloud (Beers, 2003) technique that we have talked about in this course in that he writes a few lines then, in a conversational tone, explains what was going on in his head while he was writing.  He also outlines the questions that occurred to him as a result of the writing, questions that need to be answered in the next step of the writing process. 
I could continue to go on and on about the different informative sections of Immersed in Verse but this blog entry would get way too long.  The book is just loaded with handy “tricks of the trade” and is chock full of ideas for activities to get a writer’s creative juices flowing. 
Throughout this course, I’ve found myself returning to poetry a several times: first to discuss Who Killed Mr. Chippendale?, then to write the blog on A Kick in the Head, and finally to write this last blog on the informational book Immersed in Verse.   I think I must be trying to find better ways to teach poetry to my students…they hate it so much when they enter my room at the beginning of the school year!  I don’t want them to hate it!  In discovering trade books like Immersed in Verse and A Kick in the Head, I think I may have found a couple of resources to help them to rediscover the joy they no doubt found in poetry when they were younger.  With A Kick in the Head, we’ll play with some of the poetic forms and incorporate some of Wolf’s techniques for finding inspiration in even the most mundane of places. With Immersed in Verse, I hope to boost my students' confidence in their writing abilities…everyone CAN write poetry and here’s how you do it!    
I’m not sure how this all will turn out, but I can’t wait to get started!
Beers, K. (2003). When kids can’t read: What teachers can do. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann. 

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