Margin Notes



In her Author’s Note, Kate Baer describes the day she realized she could see the growing number of negative messages she encountered online and in her inbox in a new way: “On a whim, I took a screenshot of her message, blotted out some lines with the pen tool, and hit post.” Soon, she began seeing opportunities to create erasure poems everywhere. I Hope This Finds You Well is Baer’s collection of erasure poetry created from both negative and positive exchanges she has had with readers as well as from advertisements, news, and current events.

Almost any text, from a text message to a text book can be reimagined as an erasure poem. Invite students to select a text they can re-envision as poetry and then reflect on how the meaning and message has changed by the words and phrases they have erased.




“[They] would never understand what I am finally

understanding, which is that

bodies aren’t lawless spaces

like mom said.

They are


places we are trapped inside,

and the world just gets to

look and


who we


                                                                                -Mimi, Lawless Spaces

Through the journals of four generations of women in the Dovewick family, Lawless Spaces by Corey Ann Haydu explores the lasting impacts of living in a patriarchal society. The story starts with Mimi, in 2022, who, following family tradition, is gifted a journal for her 16th birthday. But because she has been emotionally (and at times physically) abandoned by her mother, this is all she receives – there is no celebration at all. It is as confusing for the reader as it is for Mimi to understand how her once loving mother has turned into such an unrecognizable stranger who, seemingly, feels nothing towards her daughter save the occasional bursts of anger. To understand this new “mother” Mimi turns to the journals of her mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother.

The stories, written in verse, that are shared by the different generations of sixteen-year-old include stories of sexual assault, harassment, and trauma. For Mimi, in 2022, it is an image posted on social media that she was coerced into taking. For Tiffany in 1999, it is the non-consensual relationship with a powerful man as she attempts to enter the world of acting. For Betty in 1954, it is the pressure to give up a child to maintain her family’s reputation. And for Virginia in 1924, it is living the life expected when you are the wife of a soldier sent to war.

The generational trauma of these four women leads to intergenerational family trauma where silence, repression, and hostility reign. While it is too late to amend some of these relationships, Mimi is determined to break this cycle of trauma, and salvage what relationships she can.

Ultimately, this is a book about women’s bodies, the ways they have been and continue to be consumed by men, and the power of women joining together and sharing their stories. The message for women to continue to tell their stories is an important one, and many students still need to hear it, and for that reason this novel is an important title to add to a classroom library.

CRAFT STUDIO: AIN’T BURNED ALL THE BRIGHT by Jason Reynolds and Jason Griffin


What I was reading:

Ain’t Burned All The Bright by Jason Reynolds and Jason Griffin.

From the book blurb: “Jason Reynolds, using three longgggggg sentences, and Jason Griffin, using three hundred pages of pocket-size moleskine, hav mind-melded this fierce-vulnerable-brilliant-terrifying-whatiswrongwithhumans-hopefilled-hopeful-tender-heartbreaking-heartmaking-manifesto on what it means not to be able to breath, and how the people and things at your fingertips are actually the oxygen you need.”

What moves I noticed the writer/illustrator use:

  • The text and the artwork are equally prominent 
  • The author and the illustrator work together to create the text (true collaboration)
  • All the art is created in a Moleskine notebook
  • Some of the words are crossed out but kept visible
  • On a few pages, blackout poetry is used
  • The text on each page appears to be cut out of a larger page and taped down in the Moleskin
  • Many art media are used – ink, pencil, paint, chalk, collage, stencils, etc.
  • The text is an example of a prose poem
  • The artist uses nature themes as a metaphor for the pandemic
  • The text is an example of a remix. Learn more about remixes from educator Paul W. Hankins here.

Possibilities for Writers:

  • Try your hand at writing prose poetry and then play around with cutting it up, changing it, adding to it – in other words- remix it. 
  • This book is a true collaboration. Try collaborating with another person to create a text together using a poem and art. This could be your poem, or someone else’s. 
  • Create a blackout poem from a old book, newspaper or magazine

Here is a sample:

You can also make blackout poems using a Blackout Poetry Maker. 

Most of all, have fun! 



Ain’t Burned All The Bright is the collaboration of author Jason Reynolds and artist Jason Griffin. Set in the year 2020, during lockdown, the story consists of three sections, three breaths. The narrator is a young adult trying to make sense of lockdown, what is means to be black in America right now, and how both contribute to his lack of oxygen. The reader can feel the suffocation as he details his father’s battle with COVID quarantine, his mother’s paralyzed consumption of the news and his siblings’ distracted avoidance of all issues. He becomes every reader as he struggles to find oxygen and desperately searches for air, both literally and figuratively. The hope that comes when he does find that breathe is contagious and provides the promise that society can find the strength to move forward, make changes, and finally breath.

Reynold’s lyrical ability to play with words, combined with Griffin’s art, pair together to express the complicated emotions of our narrator, leaving the story, and the ideas expressed within, resonating with many young adults long after closing the book.

The beauty of this piece does not end with the rejuvenating breath. After the story, this book includes a little gem of a conversation between the two collaborators. In a final section titled, “is anyone still here?” Reynolds and Griffin share the journey of creating this piece of work together. This interview style closure is one that reveals the trust between the two creators, their trust in the writing process itself, and offers up some great advice for student writers and artists.



The resource Teaching Living Poets by Lindsay Illich and Melissa Alter Smith offers several engaging ideas and activities to incorporate poetry in your class. This activity is one used to introduce poetry and teach theme.



  1. Place students in small groups with a poem and ask the simple question “What is the most significant word?” to represent this poem. Ask the groups to discuss their word choice and extend their discussion by explaining why they chose each word.
  2. Give each group a piece of chart paper with a marker. You will give a mini-lesson before they begin.
  3. Demonstrate how to use the concentric circles (found in the image below) to record your thinking on a poem. The focus is to defend the word choice as there are no right/wrong answers. The center circle is what the group has decided is the most important word. The next circle is for images and connections to that word. The third circle is theme. One way to consider theme is to ask, “What message is the author trying to deliver about the word written in the middle circle?”. Lastly, the outer area is for the text evidence that supports the word and theme.
  4. Students will copy the concentric circles on their own page.

For more ideas, follow the hashtag #teachlivingpoets on Twitter.

Illich, Lindsay, and Melissa Alter Smith. Teach Living Poets. National Council of Teachers of English, 2021.



My first introduction to Maggie Smith’s poetry was during a quickwrite when we were invited to write beside her poem Good Bones. I was immediately drawn in by its powerful images and direct language, and I found myself thinking about the repeated phrase, “though I keep this from my children” long after I had put my writer’s notebook away.

I have read Maggie Smith’s most recent collection, Goldenrod, multiple times and in various ways: straight through in one sitting the day I got it, slowly and deliberately while capturing favorite lines in my notebook, and dipping in and out to revisit poems that I continue to mull over. The poems found in Goldenrod touch on love and loss, parenthood and childhood, the pandemic, and the truths and wonders that exist in the world when we take the time to notice them. It is brimming with possibilities for the high school ELA classroom.

You can read three poems from Goldenrod here:

Written Deer

During Lockdown, I Let the Dog Sleep in My Bed Again

How Dark the Beginning

In this episode of The Wintering Sessions, writer Katherine May interviews Maggie Smith.

Here is a Craft Studio post about Keep Moving by Maggie Smith.



Poem In Your Pocket Day (PYID) is celebrated every year during National Poetry Month.

From the League of Poets website:

“On PIYP Day, select a poem, carry it with you, and share it with others at schools, bookstores, libraries, parks, workplaces, coffee shops, street corners, and on social media using the hashtag #PocketPoem.”

I was thinking about all the digital options available for accessing poetry and how our phones can fit in our pockets and then it occured to me that selecting a poem on a social media platform and then sharing said poem on your socials is literally “a poem in your pocket”.

Here are some fantastic sources for poetry:

Button Poetry

Button Poetry is very active on all social media platforms, including TikTok and Instagram, YouTube and Facebook. If you click the link above and then scroll down to the bottom of the page, you can find all the links. They share amazing spoken word poetry on TikTok.

Poetry Foundation

Publishers of the magazine POETRY. They are active on instagram, and have a podcast called “Audio Poem of the Day”.

Brett Vogelsinger

Brett is a high school ELA teacher, and each year in March he tweets and blogs about poetry – leading up to Poetry Month. You can find this year’s tweets here. is active on Twitter and has a poem-a-day section on their website. They tweet using the hashtag #poemaday

League of Canadian Poets

On their website, you will find selections of poems for Poem-in-your-Pocket Day for the past 6 years.

PIYP Day 2021 / 2020 / 2019 / 2018 / 2017 / 2016

With all these options, I can guarantee that your students will not only find a poem that speaks to them, but will be excited to share that poem to the world. And, don’t forget to use the hashtag #pocketpoem!




April is Poetry Month and Margin Notes will be featuring ideas for celebrating poetry this month…and all year long.

We’ve updated our Poetry Month Resource Round-Up.

Made with Padlet

If you are looking for more inspiration to launch a month of poetry, these might be helpful:

4 Reasons to Start Class with a Poem Each Day by Brett Vogelsinger (via Edutopia)

10 Reasons to Begin Reading Poetry by Rebecca Hussey (via Book Riot)

Poetry Critic Steven Burt’s TED Talk Why People Need Poetry

How Poetry Can Turn A Fear of Literature into Love by Jason Reynolds

Grant Snider’s Comic Understanding Poetry

You will also find poetry ideas in our Craft Studio and Try This Tomorrow posts.

Happy Poetry Month!