I helicoptered past
your kitchen window last fall.
I dream wild
I am forest.
Above are some examples of "tree voices" from Old Elm Speaks. When I was writing these poems, I enjoyed the challenge of using different "voices."
For example: I "talked" to a tree in "Celebration." In "Old Elm Speaks" , "Oak's Introduction", and "Maple Shoot in the Pumpkin Patch", I pretended to be a tree. So, these poems were written in the "voice" of the tree.
Several of the poems in Old Elm Speaks are written from different points of view - using different "voices." Some of the "voices" you will discover in Old Elm Speaks are:
An oak tree introducing itself to a child
A vain willow
A street tree with a secret
Children enjoy pretending to be something else and intuitively understand seeing their world in this way. they quickly realize that a tree is "speaking" in these poems, and then have a new approach to use in their own poetry.
Poems like these, in which the subject of the poem is the speaker, are sometimes called "mask" or "persona" poems.
To introduce the idea of the mask poem, start with one that is already familiar: "I'm a little teapot." Ask your students who is speaking. Then, read a selection of mask poems aloud, including the ones mentioned above from Old Elm Speaks, and ask your students to identify the speaker in each poem.
Once students are comfortable with the idea of mask poems, have them pretend they are something else, inanimate or animate. A stapler? A squirrel? A cloud? A soccer ball? The tree they can see from their bedroom window? Questions you might want your students to think about are:
What is your day like?
What do you see? Feel? Hear? Smell?
What do you enjoy? Fear? What do you dream about?
Introducing children to the various "voices" of poetry has sparked some of my most exciting poetry workshops. The poems students write when they experiment with different voices are often wildly creative and totally original. (After I did this exercise with students, one second-grader went home and reported to his mother that the "poetry lady" had "morphed" him into a lion!)
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