How to Write a Poem

Imagine teaching your dream writing class
filled with adolescent poets
waiting to be sparked.

Tracing our hands,
we generate topics—
one feeling for each finger.

Teacher Lady gives the first one.
Elation: word of the week.
Everyone writes it on a digit.
What else you got?



City Girl says poverty isn’t a feeling. Giving rise to replies.

You ever been poor?

Stuff it, City Girl.

Isn’t poverty like being hungry all the time? –that’s a feeling.

What about poverty of spirit?

City Girl says good point and
so . . .
elation, sorrow, poverty, and greed!
There’s another one—greed!

Teacher Lady interjects—
Yes City girl,
like a poet’s greed for words
her hunger, aching to be fed
that absent muse
that’s what hurts.

Hey Teacher Lady
Why you call a poet her?
seems – (his fingers air-quote this part)—
“non – in – clu – sive”
Poverty Boy pronounces every syllable in singsong
nodding his head back and forth.

Good point, Poverty Boy
nothing feels equal.
Maybe you should write about it.
Express your angst.
Express your elation.
Your words open cracks
that need your light.

Open your journals.

Some Other Kid retorts
Look at our hand chart.
We only have four feelings.
What about our thumb?

Teacher Lady replies
Add angst.
a feeling of deep anxiety or dread
something that needs light
later we’ll revisit and make today’s word shine

Here are your words:

elation, sorrow, poverty, greed, and angst
Pick one or more.
Dig deep.
You know the drill.

20 minutes on the timer and…..

The entire class yells,

Heads down,
relentless pencils scratch and explore.


Notes: This piece follows today’s NaPo prompt to write a How To poem. It lost the formatting when I uploaded, and wish I knew how to upload audio from my phone. This is best served out loud. Day 2. Check!

4 thoughts on “How to Write a Poem

  1. Although I love your poem, it reminds me of why I didn’t teach children. Had four at home, two older teens, and two just emerging into that arena. Angst, is a very good word. And I for one, would love to hear this read aloud, it sort of begs for that reality. You rock, Brenda…both as ‘teacher lady’ and as ‘poet’.



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