Margin Notes

HOW TO WRITE A POEM BY KWAME ALEXANDER, DEANNA NIKAIDO, AND MELISSA SWEET

Apr
23

In the author’s note of How to Write a Poem, Kwame Alexander defines a poem as “a small but mighty thing. It has the power to reach inside us, to teach us to ignite our imaginations.” Yet, he observes that poetry is often regarded as complicated, intimidating, and inaccessible. To counteract poetry becoming the neglected genre, he and Deanna Kikaido wrote this book to ”help each of us find our way back to an appreciation of words…to remembering the wonder of poetry.”

Alexander and Nikaido have written a delightful poem that combines beautifully with Melissa Sweet’s wonderful artwork to invite and inspire us to pay attention to the world around us for ideas to kindle our imagination. This is where “the words have been waiting to slide down your pencil into your small precious hand and become a voice with spark.”

How to Write a Poem is brimming with possibilities for poetry month and beyond. Here are just a few:

  • Explore and discuss the many poetic elements of the poem.
  • Read like writers and use How to Write a Poem as a mentor text for how-to poems on other topics.
  • After reading, invite students to quickwrite about their process for finding writing ideas.
  • Use think-ink-pair-share for students to reflect on and then share the line that most resonates with them as a writer.
  • Launch the writer’s notebook as a tool for noticing and capturing the seeds of writing ideas with a text set that incorporates How to Write a Poem with picture books such as I Wonder by K.A Holt and Kenard Pak, Ideas Are All Around by Philip C. Stead, and Noticing by Kobi Yamada and Elise Hurst. You can also include selections from collections like The Book of Delights by Ross Gay and World of Wonders by Aimee Nezhukumatathil.
  • Build a text set on the power of noticing that combines How to Write a Poem with What to Put in Your Notebook by Grant Snider, Poetry is the Act of Paying Attention by Clint Smith, and The Patience of Ordinary Things by Pat Schneider.
  • Begin a craft or process study with How to Write a Poem and resources that provide behind-the-scenes views of writers and their writing. Interviews with Poets, Craft Advice, and How I Wrote It are terrific places to start.

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