Poetry Basics
 
by Charles Ghigna
 
In order to grow as a writer, you've got to be willing to risk it all each time you sit down to write. You've got to be open and brave and curious. Whenever I'm asked, "When did you become a poet?" I'm always tempted to ask, "When did you stop?" When did you stop taking risks? We're all born poets. We all enjoy the sounds of language. Every new parent knows that. We're all born with the need to "sound our barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world" as Whitman would have it.

Poetry is a natural part of our lives. It's not just something we have to memorize and recite in front of the class. Losing ourselves in a poem is one of the best ways of finding out who we are. The act of writing brings us to that point of discovery, of discovering on the page something we didn't know we knew until we wrote it. Don't let reality cloud your imagination. Look up at the sky and find once again those long-tailed dragons and sailing ships. Wake up to the world as though you are seeing it each day for the first time. Find the wonder. Question the way things are. Imagine new choices. Write from the child in you.

Style isn't how you write. It's how you do not write like anyone else. You don't need a degree to be a writer. It doesn't take teachers or textbooks to show you how to write. One learns how to write by writing. There is no other way.

    A Poem Is A Little Path

    A poem is a little path
    That leads you through the trees.
    It takes you to the cliffs and shores,
    To anywhere you please.
    Follow it and trust your way
    With mind and heart as one,
    And when the journey's over,
    You'll find you've just begun.

Text © 1999 by Charles Ghigna, Reprinted from The 20th Century Children's Poetry Treasury, Knopf.

What do you think about when you hear the word POETRY? There are many kinds of poems:

Some poems make us LAUGH.
Some poems make us THINK.
Some poems are SHORT & FUNNY.
Some poems are LONG & SERIOUS.
Some poems RHYME.
Some poems DO NOT RHYME.

What KINDS of poems have you read?
What KINDS of poems have you written?

Here are some different KINDS of poems:

Couplets

Couplets have two lines that rhyme. Here are five couplets from poems in “Tickle Day: Poems from Father Goose” by Charles Ghigna:

    from LITTLE DADDY LONGLEGS

    Little Daddy Longlegs played in the sun,
    Climbing up the front steps just for fun.

    from TURTLE TROUBLE

    Tell me if you think you know
    How to make a turtle go.

    from TOMORROW'S MY BIRTHDAY

    Tomorrow's my birthday and I'll be four
    And I won't have to stay home anymore.

    from NATURE'S SHOWS

    Nature puts on little shows
    Every time it rains or snows.

    from IT'S SNOW WONDER!

    It's snow wonder that we cheer
    Snowflakes when they fall each year.

Here is a poem that has four couplets:

    PUMPKINS ON GUARD
    by Charles Ghinga, from "Halloween Night"

    Look at all the pumpkin faces
    Lighting up so many places.
    On the porch and in the yard,
    Pumpkin faces standing guard.
    Looking friendly, looking mean,
    With a smile or with a scream.
    Orange faces burning bright
    In the cool October night.

Tercets

Tercets have three lines. Here is a poem with two tercets:

    WITCH WAY
    by Charles Ghinga, from "Halloween Night"

    With warts on her nose
    And sharp pointy toes,
    She flies through the night on her broom.
    With covers pulled tight
    In the shadows of night,
    I hide in the dark of my room.

Ballad Stanzas

A group of four lines is called a STANZA. The ballad stanza has a rhyme at the end of line number two and line number four.

Here are three poems that have ballad stanzas. The first poem has 3 ballad stanzas. The last two poems have 2 ballad stanzas.

    THE BEE POEM
    by Charles Ghinga, from "Tickle Day: Poems by Father Goose"

    A poem is a busy bee
    Buzzing in your head.
    His hive is full of hidden thoughts
    Waiting to be said.
    His honey comes from your ideas
    That he makes into rhyme.
    He flies around looking for
    What goes on in your mind.
    When it's time to let him out
    To make some poetry,
    He gathers up your secret thoughts
    And then he sets them free.

    A POEM IS A LITTLE PATH (as seen above)
    by Charles Ghinga, from "Tickle Day: Poems by Father Goose"

    A poem is a little path
    That leads you through the trees.
    It takes you to the cliffs and shores,
    To anywhere you please.
    Follow it and trust your way
    With mind and heart as one,
    And when the journey's over,
    You'll find you've just begun.

    HAPPY HALLOWEEN!
    by Charles Ghinga, from "Halloween Night"

    I'd rather be foolish than ghoulish,
    I'd rather dress up as a clown;
    I'd rather wear clothes with polka dot bows,
    I'd much rather smile than frown.
    I'd rather be kooky than spooky,
    I'd rather be friendly than mean;
    I'd rather go greeting than tricking and treating,
    I'd rather have fun Halloween!

Text © by Charles Ghinga. Text reprinted by permission of the author. Any copying or use of these poems without consent is unlawful.

Permission is given for individual school classes to use this lesson and to make as many copies of the lesson as are needed for the students’ use. All other reproduction is prohibited under penalty of law. For use outside individual classes, please contactinfo@meadowbrookpress.com. All rights reserved.

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