Friday, October 2, 2009

Student Writing: from magazine image to poem

The Fearful Warthog

Eyes glowing through the dust
Glaring upon a trapped warthog
Lying helplessly
On the dark, dry forest floor.

Surroundings closing in.
The smell of death and hunger
Lingering in the air.

A small pant.
A scuffing of the dirt.
A taste of dust.
And the crouching wild dogs waiting.

Written by Paul D., 10th Grade

This poem was written using the writing prompt provided on the August 31 post: "Mother Rose: Writing an Image/Sense Detail Poem."

Let's consider this poem, using some of the 6-Traits + 1 concepts.
  • Organization: The more abstract middle stanza is "sandwiched" between the sense detail of the first and last stanzas. This maintains the primacy of the image for the poem. The poem contains a balance of both dynamism and silence, a quality of consciousness-based writing. The reader both participates in and identifies with the action of the poem and also silently witnesses the action; the reader is both the actor and the audience.
  • Word choice: Words with the same beginning sounds in close proximity, called alliteration, work well in the poem--glowing, glaring and dark, dry in the first stanza; small, scuffing and wild, waiting in the third stanza. And if I talked to Paul about alliteration, I'm pretty sure he would just raise his eyebrows at me. That's okay, though, because poetry is integral to language; we don't have to be literary academics to feel and use the deep and powerful rhythms of our language.
  • Sentence Fluency: Note the short lines and the fragmented sentences. Short bursts of meaning, just as we can imagine the hyenas circling and feinting rushes at the warthog--sound and rhythm enhancing meaning.
  • Voice: Paul is an athlete. I can feel his personal experience in the poem, hear his voice. This is the primal contest, the contest of life and death. Consider the last stanza, but change the arena to the basketball court, two teams competing for the win. The gasps for breath, the squeak of shoes on the wooden floor. Sweat salty on the lips. The players crouched, coiled to leap for the ball. Paul "got" the image--and probably identified just as much with the hyena as the warthog.
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi said that competition was for the competent. This poem dramatically illustrates the need to perform to our highest capabilities.

Copyright 2009 by Thomas L. Kepler, all rights reserved

Publication of student writing on this blog does not compromise, destroy, or obviate publication rights on electronic or any other media worldwide. Copyright 2009, all rights reserved.

Image used for educational purposes from Flickr, Peter Scumaci,
all rights retained for the photographer.


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