Write After Reading: Living the Life Poetic (Chapter 27)

Write After Reading: Living the Life Poetic is a weekly online book club with poetry participation. It alternates between my blog and Susan Taylor Brown’s blog. Last week, we worked on line breaks at Susan’s blog. And the week before, we worked on sound diagrams right here, and I’ve been putting that tactic to work on some rhyming poems I’m revising right now (definitely much more challenging with rhyming poems, but very effective when I can do it!).

This week, we’re talking about Chapter 27: Imitation Is the Highest Form of Discovery. I’ll wait here while you go read it… I love this chapter! I especially like, “Let’s leave our heroes on our bookshelves, where they belong. But first, let’s raid their wardrobe, try on their shoes and bow ties and raincoats, and see what fits. By imitating shamelessly whatever you like best about others’ work, you may discover new ways of using sound, language, imagery, and form that you hadn’t considered previously.” Yes! I already do this a fair bit. When I’m working on a poetry collection, sometimes all the poems start to sound alike. Same meter, same rhyme scheme, blah, blah, blah. That’s when I grab a poetry book off my shelf and look for a poem to imitate. I’ll find a poem I love and jot down the meter, rhyme scheme, or whatever else grabs me about that poem, and then I’ll try to apply some of those qualities to a poem on a totally different topic for my collection. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it’s a flop. Often it’s somewhere in between. Or I’ll get something good out of it, but it will have morphed far away from the qualities I was trying to copy. But it’s always a good starting point for trying something new (or, ahem, borrowed). And Sage makes another point I hadn’t ever thought of. “That’s why imitation is invaluable; it can open the escape hatch from rules you weren’t even aware you were abiding by.” That really speaks to me. I’m sure there are plenty of rules I’ve set for myself (being a rule-following kind of person) that I’m not even aware of. So this can help me break free and follow someone else’s wild and wonderful rules or non-rules for a change. The Try This! section of this chapter is really one big exercise, so let’s dive in. 1) Find a poem you love and read it out loud several times. I’m using Rebecca Kai Dotlich’s “Firefly.” It’s a poem I love by one of my favorite children’s poets. It’s from the wonderful collection Lemonade Sun (Boyds Mills Press, 2001).

Firefly

Sliver of moon.
Slice of star.
Rhinestone in a jelly jar.
Twinkling treasure
snatched from sky;
neon sparkle–
firefly!

–Rebecca Kai Dotlich, all rights reserved

Isn’t that gorgeous? She has so many wonderful poems. Not only do I adore this one, but I confess I wanted to pick a short one, too. I have about 20 minutes to do this blog post, so I am not going to attempt to imitate some epic poem!

2) 3 things I admire about it

  • Her use of such concrete, vivid nouns–always a strength of hers
  • The way the title is just kinda like, ok, firefly, but then she reinvents it for me so that by the last line, firefly EARNS that italics and exclamation point
  • Her metaphors–she always makes me look at common things in totally new ways

3) I don’t think I discovered anything new about “what’s allowed” in poetry. Just a good reminder of what I aim for–and miss.

4) Write a poem that uses those three techniques. I’ll try. I’m also going to copy Rebecca’s line/meter. Quickly. So this will be rough.

Here’s what I came up with:

Lilypad

Water cooler.
Rooted cloud.
Bass–murky shadow shroud.
Green-frog launcher,
dewdrop- clad.
Floating meadow?
lilypad!

–Laura Purdie Salas, all rights reserved

5) What worked and what didn’t

Well, I like the list of things. Mine are more literal than Rebecca’s, showing the different roles of the lilypad. I wish I had gone more fanciful with mine. And I’d like to do more research to find fish and frog species that work better, language-wise. But for an exercise, I’m pretty happy with it. If I were working on it for a collection, I’d play around with other rhyming pairs. But I definitely got more concrete nouns in here, and that’s one thing I’m constantly struggling to do. Now, what about you? Will you either find a favorite poem to imitate, or use Rebecca’s if it’s a new favorite for you? I’d love to see what you come up with! And, of course, share your opinions about imitation and anything else in the chapter you want to talk about.  

2 Responses

  1. “Lilypad” idea I’ll try to imitate with varying line length and good nouns. Thanks.

  2. “Lilypad” idea I’ll try to imitate with varying line length and good nouns. Thanks.

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 2,504 other subscribers

Are You Looking For?

Poetry Friday posts

Classroom Connections posts

All my poetryactions

Go to my Poetry page for:

  • National Poetry Month projects through the years
  • Small Reads Roundups (poems grouped by topic)
  • Introductions to several favorite poetry forms
Tags
#waterpoemproject15 Words or Less Poems20for2030 Painless Classroom Poems50 State Poemsacrosticsactivity pagesactivity sheetALAA Leaf Can Be...Amy Ludwig VanDerwaterA Need to FeedanthologiesanthologyA Rock Can Be...art projectsaudiopoemsawardsbad newsBarbara Juster EsbensenBilly Collinsbiopoemsblog tourbookalikesbook festivalsBookSpeak!book spine poemsbook trailersbop poembyr a thoddaidcafepresscalendar poemsCamp Read-a-LotCan Be... bookscan be... poemsCapstoneCarol Varsalonacascade poemsCatherine FlynnCCRA.W.3CCRA.W.4CCRA.W.5centoschapter bookschoral compositionschristina rossetticinquainsCLAclassified ad poemsclassroom connectionclassroom connectionsClover Kittyconferences and conventionscrown sonnetscybilsdansaDare to DreamDavid Elliottdeeper wisdom poemdefinitosdiamantesdiversitydizaindodoitsuDot DayDouglas Floriandownloadablesdrum corpse.e. cummingsekphrastic poemsepistolary poemsequation poemsessentialethereeseventsexquisite corpseFairy Tale Garage Salefamilyfibonaccifiction picture booksfinding familyfirefightersforeign editionsfound poemsfree author zoomsfree versefrom studentsgeesegeorgia heardghazalGift Taggiveawaygolden shovelgoldilocksgratitudehaikuheart of aheart of a teacherHeidi MordhorstHelen FrostHighlightshow-to poemshow to make a rainbowI Am FromI Am poemsidiomsif you want to knit some mittensIf You Were the MoonILAimagepoemsinterviewin the middle of the nightIRAIrelandIrene LathamJ. Patrick LewisJanet WongJoyce SidmanKendraKerlanKidlit Comboslailaura's board booksLaura's booksLaura's poemsLaura's readingsLaura ShovanLee Bennett HopkinsLilian MoorelimericksLinda Booth SweeneyLine Leads the WayLion of the Skylist poemslittle free librarylive writingLullaby and Kisses Sweetlyricsmadness poetrymargaret simonMarilyn Singermary lee hahnmask poemsMeet My FamilyMelissa StewartMentors for Rentmentor textsmetaphorMichelle Myers LacknerMillbrookMinnesota Book Awardsmoonmy reading lifemy writing processN+7naaninarrative poemsNational Poetry Month 2012 (haiku a day)National Poetry Month 2014 (riddle-ku)National Poetry Month 2015National Poetry Month 2016National Poetry Month 2017 (#wonderbreak)national poetry month 2018 (haiku a day)National Poetry Month 2020National Poetry Month 2021 (#EquationPoem)national poetry month 2022 (sticky-note poems)National Poetry Month 2023 (Digging for Poems)National Poetry Month 2024 (magnipoems)ncteNerdy Book Clubnifty newsnifty stuffNikki Grimesnonfictionnonfiction booksNonfiction Writers Dig Deepnovelsnovels in verseodesOne Minute Till BedtimeoppositifyOskar's VoyagepadletpantoumsparodiesPatreonpeacepersonalpet poemsphotopoetryphrase acrosticspicture booksplagiarismpoempicspoemspoems for two voicespoemsketchpoetic pursuitsPoetry 7poetryactionspoetry activitiesPoetry Blastpoetry booksPoetry FridayPoetry Friday AnthologiesPoetry Princessespoetry promptspoetry sistersPoetry Tips for Teachersprogressive poempublishing processpuddle songPutridquotationsraccontinosRandy Salasread-aloudreadaloudreading poetry in the classroomRebecca Kai Dotlichrecipe poemsrefugeesresearchreview copiesreviewsrevisionrhyming booksrhyming nonfictionrhyming picture booksRhyming Picture Books the Write Wayrhyming poemsRiddle-kuriddle poemsRock Can Be...Rock the Blogrondeau redoublesRudyard Kiplingsalas snippetsSCBWIschool visitsScotlandseasonssecrets of the loonSELsestinasshrinking daysskinnyskypeslice of lifesmall readssnack snooze skedaddlesnowman-coldsonnetsStampede!storm poemstorytimestorywalkstudent poemsstudent workSylvia VardellTanita Davistankatautogramteachableteacher resourcesteen/adult poemsterza rimasthankfulthank yous and referencesthe business sidethings to do iftracy nelson maurertrioletstunie munson-bensonvideosVikram MadanvillanellevillanellesWater Can Be...wealthy elementaryWe BelongWhat's InsideWhy-kuwinterwonderwonderbreakword of the yearwordplaywordsmithswork for hirewritingwriting bookswriting processwriting promptswriting the life poeticyoung authors conferencesYouTubeZap Clap Boomzenozentangle
Show More Show Less

Discover more from Laura Purdie Salas

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading

Join Laura's monthly newsletter for eductators

Get three of Laura's favorite poetry activities when you subscribe to "Small Reads."