Margin Notes



What do you think of when you hear the word “warm”? What images or feelings might that conjure up for you?

For  Goodwill Ambassador for the UN Refugee Agency Neil Gaiman, the idea of “warmth” was top of mind when winter was settling in and he knew there would be many refugees living rough…without the comfort that warmth brings. He went to Twitter to ask a simple question: What are your memories of being warm?

Well, Twitter did not disappoint.

Gaiman received thousands of replies, compiled all the responses and, with the help of 12 talented illustrators, created this unique book: What You Need to be Warm: A Poem of Welcome.

Every page is full of “warmth” both in the words and the illustrations.

This would be a beautiful mentor text to use during poetry month. You could examine the way that Gaiman uses language to evoke feelings and look at how the illustrations help to bring the text to life. You could also discuss how Gaiman took all the memories and wove them into a poem.

A great way to do low stakes poetry writing is to a collaborative poem. Students could each create a poem (based on a question or prompt) and then could put them together into one longer text. Then, students could be encouraged to illustrate different parts. This could be done with paper/pencil or with technology.

Here are some ideas for prompts:

  • Home is…
  • Blue is… (Sample lesson plan here)
  • Choose a character from a class read aloud and write a poem describing them

This book reminded me a bit of Ain’t Burned All The Bright, a collaboration between Jason Reynolds and Jason Griffin, because of the collaborative nature of the work. Here are two blog posts about that book.

What You Need to be Warm: A Poem of Welcome would make a great addition to a read aloud stack for Poetry Month, or any time of year!







What I Was Reading: 

Clint Smith’s latest collection, Above Ground, examines the emotional landscape of fatherhood, particularly how parenthood has reshaped his perspective on the world. Through poems that explore personal and historical legacies, Smith reflects on the complexities of raising a family amidst societal upheaval. He captures both the joy of seeing the world anew through the eyes of a child and the weight of navigating a turbulent political and social climate.

In “This Is an Incomprehensive List of All the Reasons I Know I Married the Right Person,” the poet employs several craft moves to convey the depth of their love and appreciation for their partner:

This Is an Incomprehensive List of All the Reasons

I Know I Married the Right Person

Because on weekends you wrap your hair with a scarf

and you have so many different scarves that come in

so many different colors and now when I’m out in the world

every time I see a colorful scarf I think of you and I think

of the weekends which are the best days because they are

the days that you and I don’t have to worry about work

or deadlines just bagels and bacon and watching this small

human we’ve created discover the world for the first time.

Because when you laugh you kind of cackle, no I mean you

really cackle like you take a deep breath in and out comes

something unfiltered and unrehearsed and it’s cute

but also scary and isn’t that the perfect description of love?

Because when you watch The Voice you talk to the judges

as if they are waiting for your consultation. Because you

always ask the restaurant to make your pizza extra crispy

and then you put it in the oven for another thirty minutes

anyway after they deliver it. Because when you wake our son

up in the morning you are always singing. Because when

I read you poems I love you always close your eyes

and tell me your favorite line. Because on my birthday

you had my friends make barbecue

and we had leftovers for weeks. Because I like my cinnamon rolls

with maple syrup and honey mustard and you still kiss me

in the morning. Because you hold my hand

when I’m scared and don’t know how to say it.

What Moves I Notice the Author Making: 

  • Using vivid imagery to describe specific moments and habits shared with their partner, such as wrapping hair with scarves, laughing with a cackle, and watching their child discover the world.
  • Including specific details that create a sense of intimacy and familiarity, such as the routine of weekend mornings with bagels and bacon, or the way their partner likes their pizza extra crispy.
  • Weaving together both small, everyday details like wrapping hair with scarves and requesting extra crispy pizza, with deeper, more intimate moments such as holding hands when scared. This juxtaposition emphasizes the significance of both the day-to-day and profound experiences shared in relationships.
  • Repetition of the phrase “because” at the beginning of each stanza emphasizes the cumulative effect of these reasons and reinforces the central theme of the poem.
  • Utilizing enjambment, where lines flow into each other without punctuation at the end of a line, to create a smooth and continuous rhythm, mirroring the ongoing nature of their love and appreciation.
  • Appealing to the senses, describing the taste of cinnamon rolls with maple syrup and honey mustard, the sound of morning singing, and the touch of holding hands when scared.

Possibilities for Writers: 

  • Observe the small moments and details in their own lives and relationships, drawing inspiration from the unique aspects of their experiences, just as Smith does.
  • Reflect on their own feelings and experiences, identifying moments or traits that stand out in their relationships and considering how these moments reflect their love and appreciation for their connections.
  • Experiment with using repetition, enjambment, sensory details, etc., using the form of this poem as a guide.
  • Tap into their emotions and express them in their writing, mirroring the sincerity and depth with which the poet conveys their love and appreciation for their partner.
  • Analyze this poem as an example of effective revision and editing, examining how the poet has meticulously chosen each word and phrase to convey meaning and emotion, and applying similar attention to detail in their own writing process.




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.



What I was reading: Seal Song by Andrea Spalding–available on Sora

What moves I noticed the author making:

  • Using staggered italicized writing, with “-ing” verbs being heavily used with the italicized to suggest present movement and action
  • Having the italicized sections be a poetic break in between the narrative text
  • Adding a sense of urgency through the use of fragmented sentences
  • Having somewhat of a pattern of rhyming schemes (i.e. splashing, dashing, thrashing–plunging, lunging–flashing, slashing)
  • Organizing the stanzas to amplify and connect with the actions taking place in the narrative

Possibilities for Writers:

  • Using present “-ing” verbs to express action and movement to a scene
  • Adding rhyming words into a poetic stanza in a repeated yet not overly obvious fashion
  • Connecting poetic stanzas with ongoing action in a narrative
  • Using italicized words as a method to break the fourth wall or add another layer of description to a text
  • Imagining how you could use fragmented sentences in narrative writing and trying to add to a piece you have written



Nikita Gill’s YA debut, These Are the Words, is a poignant journey through the seasons of the soul, offering empowering and heartfelt poetry that speaks directly to the teenage experience. Divided into four sections based on astrological signs of each season, Gill’s collection serves as a guidebook for navigating the complexities of girlhood, feminism, and adolescence. Each poem feels like a warm embrace of “I see you” and touch on themes of love, friendship, family, and self-acceptance.

While many poems focus on the female experience, Gill acknowledges and validates the struggles faced by many teenagers today, from homophobia and racism to body image issues and mental health concerns. Gill encourages readers to reclaim their agency, discover their power, and fight for their dreams, reminding them that they are worthy of love, respect, and acceptance.

Overall, These Are the Words is a stunningly warm and fearless poetry collection, offering a safe space for teenagers to explore and embrace their identities and experiences. These poems are an important addition to any high school classroom, offering a voice of compassion and empowerment to young adult readers.

To offer you a glimpse into the relevance, relatability, and poignancy of this poetry collection, here is one for you to read:


I scroll through Instagram and see the words ‘you are beautiful

as you are’ right after which a perfect picture of a perfect girl in

a perfect black bikini bewitches me. I wonder, ‘When was the

last time you had your heart broken?’ I wonder, ‘Has someone

ever taken you stargazing and been surprised by how much you

know about the constellations?’ I wonder, ‘Have you ever dug

through the graveyards of your past thinking if you left something

living in there, something you wished you had left to grow?’ Her

caption says ‘I love the sun #beachparadise #beachbody’ and I

wonder if she has ever sat in the rain, letting her tears mingle in

the water, whether her version of paradise was always perfection,

colourized just so, a filter making it brighter, a story told

flawlessly. My fingers hover over the comment button. There is

so much I want to know. But instead I log out and put my phone

away for the rest of the day.



Margin Notes posted about the Poetry RX column in The Paris Review here. Dr. Maya C. Popa (@MayaCPopa), an acclaimed poet in modern poetry, has used her “X” platform to share the same idea of “Poetry Rx”. Read more about her work on her website.

She shares an ailment on “X”, and her followers will offer their prescribed poems, sometimes with explanations and other times without. The conditions are often timely with world events, seasons or connected to real people. Here are some examples:

These posts become curated poetry and art text sets on a topic/theme.

How to try this tomorrow:

Poetry Prescription Gallery Walk:

  • Curate a gallery of poems that were previously prescribed for various problems.
  • Divide students into small groups and have them rotate through the gallery.
  • Ask each group to analyze and discuss why a particular poem might have been prescribed for a given problem.
  • Encourage them to consider themes, tone, and literary devices – whatever mini-lesson you taught.

Classwide Poetry Prescription Database:

  • Create a shared online document or database where students can contribute poems they find or write for specific problems.
  • Have students categorize the poems based on the problems they address.
  • Students can take out the collection of poems when they need support in that area.

Rotating Poetry Prescription Circles:

  • Establish rotating small groups within the class.
  • Each group is responsible for identifying a problem and prescribing a poem to address it.
  • Rotate the groups periodically to ensure that students have diverse experiences in exploring and discussing different problems and poems.

Collaborative Poetry Prescriptions:

  • Assign each student a specific problem or challenge to explore through poetry.
  • Have them collaborate in pairs or small groups to find or create poems that address their assigned issue.

Poetry Playlists:

  • When teaching about character and theme development, have students create a poetry playlist to represent the emotions, actions or motivations of a character.

These ideas involve students actively engaging with poetry prescriptions, encouraging critical thinking, collaboration, and reflection on the choices made in selecting and discussing poems for specific problems.



Everything Comes Next by Naomi Shihab Nye is a collection of poems that transcends age barriers and speaks to the heart of humanity. The combination of new, previously unpublished poems and timeless favorites, come together to showcase Nye’s poetic genius.

The collection begins with an beautiful introduction by renowned poet Edward Hirsch, setting the stage for the reader’s journey into Nye’s world. Divided into three sections, the poems navigate themes of childhood, identity, and the interconnectedness of humanity. Nye’s writing style is conversational yet profound, inviting readers to contemplate the beauty found in everyday life.

A notable aspect of the collection of poems is its accessibility and versatility – there’s something for everyone within these pages. Nye’s writing tips provide valuable insights for aspiring poets, making this book a valuable resource for both readers and writers. The inclusion of artwork by Rafael López enhances the reader’s experience with striking visual imagery.

While some poems will leave you laughing, others delve into more somber topics, such as the ongoing conflict in the Middle East. Nye’s ability to navigate these complex themes with sensitivity and empathy is a testament to her skill as a poet.

Altogether, Everything Comes Next is a testament to the power of words to reveal the human experience. Whether you’re seeking inspiration, solace, or simply a moment of reflection, this book delivers on all fronts. A perfect addition to any classroom library.

Here is a poem from Everything Comes Next that encapsulates the essence of Nye’s poetry:


Always Bring a Pencil

There will not be a test.

It does not have to be

 a Number 2 pencil.

But there will be certain things-

the quiet flush of waves,

ripe scent of fish,

smooth ripple of the wind’s second name-

that prefer to be written about

in pencil.

It gives them more room

to move around.



Artists on Spotify can see every playlist their music is added to. A Tiktok artist @Johnwritessongs takes these playlist titles to create songs and have fun with the different spaces his music lands on Spotify. He has a whole playlist called songwriting challenges you can find here. You can listen to an example of a song written by playlist titles here.

*Teachers should preview all examples for language and content before showing a class.

Try this tomorrow:

Write your own found poetry: Have strips of paper cut up. Students can use their own Spotify playlist titles or search for the playlist titles of their favorite songs. Write each playlist title on a strip of paper and organize them into a poem. Encourage them to experiment with different themes, tones, and structures as they compose their poems. Collaborate, share and enjoy!

Analyzing structure and form: Have students analyze the structure and form of the found poems created by @johnwritessongs. Discuss how he uses the titles of Spotify playlists to construct lyrics and create meaning. Students can examine the organization of the playlists and how the artist selects and arranges the titles to create coherence and flow in the poem.

Understanding tone and mood: Explore the tone and mood conveyed in the found poems. Discuss how the choice of playlist titles influences the overall tone of the poem and contributes to the mood. Encourage students to identify specific words or phrases that evoke certain emotions and discuss how they contribute to the overall meaning of the poem.

This is a fun and playful way to bring poetry into the classroom but also provides a deeper conversation about how we build communities and connect through artistic expression. Use this lesson idea to embrace contemporary culture and the intersections of music, writing, social media etc.



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. You can access it here.

For more inspiration, enjoy Pamela Spiro Wagner’s How to Read a Poem: Beginner’s Manual, Introduction to Poetry by Billy Collins, and Understanding Poetry by Grant Snider.

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

Happy Poetry Month!