GRADE: High School
TECHNOLOGY: Word Processor
BY: Rebekah Allen
CREATING CONCRETE POETRY
Concrete poetry is appropriate for high school English students. Because of the visual nature of this type of poetry, students, who otherwise may find putting words on paper quite tedious, face the creative challenge of pressing words into a given form. Their poetic product is not only pleasing to the ear but also pleasing to the eye (It looks “cool”!). For the more sophisticated English student, the challenge of concrete poetry extends to using the form of the poem to enhance the meaning. Of course, concrete poetry will likely appeal to those with artistic ability. The lesson does assume very basic word processing skills and the availability of a computer lab.
Compose an original poem
Discipline the use of words to fit a given form
Create meaning which is congruent with and enhanced by the form of the poem
Concrete Poetry handout (attached)
Computer lab (one computer per student)
Description of Lesson:
Concrete poetry, poetry which portrays its subject through its form, can be both fun and challenging for the beginning poet. The task of composing a concrete poem is two-fold: first, the author must choose the subject and form of his poem (e.g., a cat in John Hollander’s poem); second, the author must select words which not only communicate what he wants to say about the subject but also adhere to the boundaries of his form. Concrete poetry, then, is a disciplined art which hones the language skills of the author.
Each student will receive a copy of the attached “Concrete Poetry” handout and grading rubric the night prior to this lesson. Students should be responsible for reading the definition and examples of concrete poetry before class. Moreover, they should have a subject and form in mind before the beginning of class. Students should be told to meet in the school’s computer lab the next day.
The first fifteen minutes of class should be spent reviewing the definition of concrete poetry and discussing reactions to those poems presented on the handout. Students should answer the question, “How does the poet’s use of form enhance meaning?”
Use of the word processor will facilitate the composition of the poem, for students will be able to experiment easily with the position and lengths of words within their chosen forms. If students choose, the drawing application can also be used to create outlines of their poems’ shapes; words can then be fitted to that form. Remind students that they can copy, cut and paste the poem several times throughout the document if they want to experiment with different wording or shape.
Students should work independently throughout the class time. Students likely will need a full block (one hour, 45 minutes) to complete the discussion and compose their first draft.
Guiding question: Did student complete a poem? (Objective 1)
Evaluation procedure: Observe students during composition time and note progress of their original work.
Did the student create a recognizable shape using words? (Objective 2)
Evaluation procedure: Collect hardcopy of poem and determine shape of poem.
Does the subject of the poem match to the form/shape? Does the author use the form of the poem to enhance his or her message? (Objective 3)
Evaluation procedure: Read poem to determine whether the shape is consistent with the meaning communicated through the words.
Directions: Please read this handout and bring it with you to class tomorrow. Remember we are meeting in the computer lab!!!
What is concrete poetry? A poem which makes a picture on the page is called concrete poetry. George Herbert, who lived in seventeenth-century England, was one of the first poets to “draw” with words. He wrote several religious poems in which he used words to create images. The image in the following poem is that of wings. (Originally the poem was published vertically on the page so that the reader could more easily see the wings.)
Lord, who createdst man in wealth and store,
Though foolishly he lost the same,
Decaying more and more
Till he became
O let me rise,
As larks, harmoniously,
And sing this day thy victories:
Then shall the fall further the flight in me.
My tender age in sorrow did begin
And still with sicknesses and shame
Thou didst so punish sin
That I became
Let me combine,
And feel this day thy victory;
For, if I imp my wing on thine,
Affliction shall advance the flight in me.
After reading this poem at least two times, stop to consider how George Herbert used the form of his poem to communicate his meaning. (Hint: What is the persona saying at the two places where the poem is most thin? What does the persona say as the poem begins to widen again?) Put your thoughts here:
A more modern poet who uses this form is John Hollander. Read “Kitty and Bug” and think about how the poet uses the form of the poem to enhance his meaning...we’ll discuss it in class tomorrow.
On the following page you will find two more examples of concrete poetry composed by former students. Tomorrow you will be asked to write a concrete poem. These poems will become a part of your poetry portfolio. I realize that you may not be able to finish your poem tomorrow in class. I have reserved an additional day at the computer lab next week. Also, remember the lab is open during lunch and after school, so, if your creative genius strikes at a time other than classtime, be sure to take advantage of the lab’s additional hours. I do expect each of you to turn in a typed concrete poem to be evaluated with your poetry portfolio.
Such a massive
Creature so little known.
What was the first swim
Like and how did it know
Where to go. And its songs so majestic and
Mysterious. A powerful message between
Them but soothing music to us. Slow moving
but graceful elegant and strong. Giants
of the ocean, and giants of our hearts.
Let’s keep this animal alive; they
have been here so long.
By Shaun Mounce
BY JASON GOINS
We are strong and stout
We wonder why people always die
We hear the noise of the ages
We see many things great and small
We want to be free of these chains
We are strong and stout
We pretend to walk the floor
We believe in hurtful doors
We touch the breeze
We feel the
We cry at dim and swampy homes
We are strong and stout
Ideas for shapes, subjects: house, boots, hat, tea kettle, balloon, flower, football, star, shape of a country, continent, or state, chair, car, letters, person, buildings, wagon, computer, bed, stairs, mountains, sun, tent, train, railroad tracks, boat, dock, fishing pole, peace symbol, sneakers, cake, torch, dress, mug, gun, fish, hand....I know you can think of many more!
for Concrete Poetry
Poem is typed 5 4 3 2 1
Spelling is correct 5 4 3 2 1
Form is recognizable 5 4 3 2 1
Meaning matches form 5 4 3 2 1