Yikes! Poetry Too?
Although best known as a songwriter and lyricist, Tom is also a poet whose work has appeared in The Fiddlehead, Descant and several other poetry magazines. This page will feature some of his poems, old and new.
Yesterday I made my first poetry mini-workshop video with the Artist in the School program (www.artistintheschool.ca) and videographers Marty O’Brian and Naomi Mark (www.midnightlight.ca). This was a first for me, and I had a great time. The AIS program is developing a series of short videos for use online by students who are not in the classroom on account of COVID-19. The idea is to present arts activities that students can do at home with available materials, to supplement online and in-person instruction. The maximum length of the video is 20 minutes, and the maximum shooting time is one hour. My proposal focused on poetry. It took me a while to narrow the focus to something that could be completed in 20 minutes; I settled on introducing students to the use of similes in the writing of poems. This seems like a tiny subject, but once I started to unpack it and translate it into a couple of doable activities, I found it was hard to keep it under 20 minutes. Another key challenge was to transform what I think of as an interactive process into a video (in which, of course, I can only imagine how students are receiving what I present). I have a good feeling about how it went, and I am looking forward to seeing the finished product next month.
The culmination of the mini-workshop is to challenge the students to create a poem that will make extensive use of similes, “colour words,” “size words” and “feeling words,” using a simple prescribed pattern based on repetition with variation. The point is not to impose a rigid template, but to ensure that students have a starting place and a clear roadmap for completing the exercise successfully, regardless of their verbal sophistication. Colourful nonsense poems are the most likely result, but surprising things can happen if students can relax their self-critical minds and play with words and thoughts. Here is the sample poem that resulted for me:
In my dream I saw a tiny house like a happy green pancake.
In my dream I saw a yellow sadness like a huge, confused cat.
In my dream I saw a large brown truck like a lonely bear.
In my dream I saw a happy thought like a gigantic pink pudding.
In my dream I saw a raven like a big, black, grumpy question mark.
I began writing something approximating verse when I was 11 years old, and I am still learning. Poetry, good or bad, arises from observation, experience, and the sheer love of playing with language.