When I was poetry-touring the Arrowhead region of Minnesota last April, a kindergarten or 1st-grade girl tugged on my arm on her way out of a session. “Can I give you these?” she asked. She held out a few papers to me. I took them, told her I couldn’t wait to read them, and off she went.
Later, one of the teachers or librarians said the student had been saving those three poems to give me for more than a month. A month! When my kids were 6 years old, they couldn’t keep track of a piece of paper for two hours.
The educator mentioned that the poems were basically copies of poems they had read, and the student had just changed them up a little bit. That’s true. And that’s fantastic. Because that’s how we learn. We take the known–nursery rhymes, jump rope chants, Billboard songs, whatever–and we start to play with them. We make them our own, little by little.
This girl took familiar poems about screaming for ice cream and poems in our pocket and such, and she changed things here and there. And she expressed herself–especially her feelings about homework! And she wrote them down, kept track of them for a long time, and then gave them to me. What a gift!
By the way, I still use this same technique. When the Poetry 7 and I share our “Poems in the style of” poems soon, you’ll see how I took an original poem and basically just started swapping parts of it out. It’s a great way to spread our writerly wings and ride on the breeze of a known work:>)