Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Tacky Splendor

My students and I have had so much fun this year with Myra Cohn Livingston's book I Am Writing A Poem About...A Game of Poetry. In the book, Livingston explains how she challenged the students in her master poetry class and how they rose to the challenge. Livingston initiated the Game of Poetry by requiring her students to write a poem that included the word "rabbit." After the poems were written and shared, she amped it up a notch and asked each student to submit some words for the next round. This time, students were required to write a poem containing three seemingly unrelated words: ring, drum, and blanket. Spurred on by the success of their poetry, the students continued until they had six words to puzzle into poetry.
My students were fascinated by the poems featured in Livingston's book; and we discussed, at great length, the images and themes that emerged from the juxtaposition of the words. They marveled at how different the poems were and were impressed that the poetry students had not sacrificed meaning for rhyme. We investigated the various poetry forms: free verse, haiku, limerick... My students wanted to give it a try; so we did.
I carried around my little red bucket, and students tossed in nouns they'd scribbled on scraps of paper. I closed my eyes and chose a word, wrote it on the whiteboard, and we began. Their enthusiasm was infectious. We couldn't stop. Two weeks and four rounds later, I found myself faced with the words flamingo, turtle, marshmallows, and seahorse. These kids couldn't be serious! I was stumped. I worried and worked the words around in my head like marbles in a wooden maze. Finally, I came up with the following poem...about retirement. These children were making my brain hurt. After sharing my poem with the class and taking a quick bow at their polite applause, I couldn't help but wonder how in the world I could even think about retiring when I was having so much fun.
Tacky Splendor
One day I will retire
in tacky splendor...
where I will read books
in a yellow and white striped lawn chair,
with a faded pink flamingo
reading over my shoulder.
I will take salty morning walks
and sweep sand out the kitchen door...
and track sand in again.
I will hang a lighthouse painting
on the wall behind the couch
and worry over a nest of turtle eggs,
protected by a makeshift fence.

I will wake up early enough
to find unbroken shells washed ashore;
but I will collect the broken ones anyway.

I will roast marshmallows
on a driftwood fire,
and marvel at the dancing rainbow flames.
For now, I will settle for a herd of seahorse magnets,
corralled on the refrigerator door;

But one day...
I will call a beach house...


  1. Bravo! You met the challenge and came up with a picture of retirement I sure could live with!

  2. Impressive response to the challenge! I want to try this with my class!

  3. Now that's the way to connect the words. Very creative poem! And a lovely view of what you might do in retirement, someday.

  4. That is amazing! Talk about rising to the challenge - and I love that it's just the work of doing the work that makes you not even want to consider retirement! I hope you have fun with kids for many, many years to come - they're learning a lot!