Poems in Art Class

Every Friday we are working on our ArtBooks (see my former post on ArtBooks). It’s so much fun, totally engaging, very freeing. Every time someone asks, “Can I [do this or that]?” I always answer,”Yes!” They’re getting the feeling of freedom, of experimenting with media, with techniques, on ArtBook Fridays.

Early last week, I asked everyone to bring a poem for a poetry page in our books. Of course, typical for our school and typical for our times, almost no one brought his/her poem. But that’s OK.

“You guys know that I’m a published writer,” I say. “Every year, I have several publications in creative nonfiction and in poetry. So you can trust me when I say that poems don’t have to rhyme, yes? and that you write with imagery, yes? and that you write about the things that you experience most deeply, that you care most deeply about.”

Yes, we got that. I read aloud a poem I had just written about the wind on the mesas and buttes, and to my astonishment, every period burst into applause at the end of my reading. Then they set about the task of writing their own poems.

They wrote about wrestling, about guitar playing, about being in love, about their parents, about all the cool things that young people care about,  about baseball, about mowing the lawn. Great poems! They lettered them into their ArtBooks and illustrated them with paints, markers, decorated pictures, all kinds of stuff.

This sort of divergent thinking and experience, the cross-curricular aspect of writing poems, really is working in our little rural junior high art class. The engagement level is 100% and the joy level immeasurable. Again, I thank Laurie Gatlin for this totally cool idea!


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