I am a thing-finder. I am a word-finder. I am a paper-finder. I cannot walk past something handwritten on a scrap of paper that is lying on the sidewalk or in the ditch or on the seat on the bus. I can’t remember not being a thing-finder. In things, I find poetry.
Be a poetry-finder. That’s some of my best advice to teachers who want to bring more poetry to their classrooms. Be the person who sees the poetry in random words, in the language that exists outside a poem that can then become a poem.
It seems so simple, but it is true that simple awareness of words and their import can create a poetry-finder, a lover of words, a poet. Some of the poetry practices I have done with students include the following:
1. Students pick one line or phrase from a library book they have been reading. They write it in large letters on a piece of paper and then find somewhere in the school to hang it. This sounds incredibly simple, but try it. You might be amazed at how these lines stop people, make them think, spark their imagination, lead to poetry.
2. Go on a scavenger hunt. Look for the poetry in bulletin board fodder, in signs, in broken concrete, in footprints. Find something non-poetic and write from its point of view.
3. Ask students to find and bring a random object that has words on it to class with them–a note, a grocery receipt, a menu, etc. Let it be the starting point for their own poem.
4. Use college catalogs or test prep booklets or other such drab literature and have students make found poems from words and lines they find therein.
5. Give students homework in taking photos of random lines, words, phrases, graffiti, objects, etc. in their world that inspire them, make them laugh, confuse them, etc. They can build poetic collages with these photos.
To be a Poetry-Finder is to be involved in a personal relationship with the world, to see it as it is, to experience it, maybe even get a little dirty (I pick up way too many things from ditches, etc.), to exist in the present and the now. In these times, that’s a little revolutionary, don’t cha think?