Friday, January 13, 2012

Poetry Friday: Digital Mentor Texts for Poetry Writing

Last Friday, at The Opposite of Indifference, Tabatha shared several centos that she had found while reading THE GREAT GATSBY. A cento is a poem created with the words of another author. You might have missed that she followed up on Saturday with this digital cento -- a poem created by editing a video of a commencement speech by Steve Jobs.

When I saw this, I realized that Poetry Friday had a way into the Mentor Texts in the Digital Writing Workshop conversation that's been going on here all week. I can honestly say:

This is part of a series of blog posts on Mentor Texts in the Digital Writing Workshop.  Contributors to this weeklong series are Troy Hicks, Katie DiCesareBill BassTony Keefer and Kevin Hodgson. Posts are also being collected at Mentor Texts in the Digital Writing Workshop. Please join our conversation!

Poem Flow is the first place that comes to mind when I think of where I might look online for poetry in a digital form that makes me say, "I could do that!" Not only do they have an online presence on their website and on, but Poem Flow also has an iPhone app that delivers poetry line by line, word by word, phrase by phrase on a simple white background. Click here to view Walt Whitman's A Noiseless Patient Spider in Poem Flow. Seems like that would be easy enough to do with PowerPoint or Keynote, but I know better than assgning it until I've tried it myself! (Franki's reflection on the importance of the teacher as digital writer is here.)

I would also love to create a typographic poem.  I've been stuck at the "How do they DO that?" stage, but I really have no excuse -- there are MANY how-to sites and tutorials online. Maybe I'll challenge myself to learn to make one before April! Here's an example that's perfect for Monday's holiday/remembrance. It's a poem that is a combination of typography and cento (and it was created for a school assignment). 

Here's a funny Taylor Mali typographic poem about language.

I used ToonDooSpaces, an online comic-making site, with my students for a couple of years. I could never convice any of my students to make a poem into a comic, but I had fun with Gerard Manley Hopkins' Pied Beauty.

Pied Beauty

My students love to read poetry on the classroom Kindle and the Kindle app on our iPods and iPad. We have Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong's PoetryTag Time and Gift Tag, Gregory K's Kickstarter poems (on pdf), and Alan Katz's Poems I Wrote When No One Was Looking.

Here's an easy way to make a digital book of classroom poems. Show your students Laura Purdie Salas' 15 Words or Less weekly challenge. Same as Laura, start with a photo for inspiration. Then invite your children to write a very short poem that's as descriptive and original as possible. Drag your photo onto a page of PowerPoint/Keynote (ideally while projecting on your screen/whiteboard for students to see), then have the students bring their poems up for you to type, one on each page. Voila! A digital poetry book!

Tara has today's Poetry Friday roundup at A Teaching Life.


  1. Oh. my. gosh. Do you ever quit????? More great resources to check out!

  2. Wow. I feel like I just unknowingly crossed over into another country. So much to see, so much to do! I'm fascinated by all the ways language can now be shared. Amazing. Thanks for sharing your expertise!

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  4. Woops... Sorry, clicked on the wrong button!

    You post gives me some really great ideas for teaching poetry -- it makes me miss teaching.

  5. Mary Lee, I have one more online tools class & you've just given me the lesson that will be a perfect ending. We have done the comics, but I never thought about it with poetry. What a terrific idea! And the digital poetry book-great idea. I am just beginning a memoir class so might apply that there. Thank you for all!

  6. What a bounty of great ideas. I especially like typographical poems. The comics look like a lot of fun, too.

  7. I just learned something new. What a really neat concept/medium to share poetry with others! I'm so glad I stopped by your blog today to experience this.

    Blessy Mathew

  8. This was a very interesting post! I had never heard of these resources. Thank you for posting and for Lee Wind's Comment Challenge that I found you.

  9. Wow - all these posts are worth revisiting and referring to. How terrific that you are willing to charter new territories and let your students explore them - and play around in them yourself, too! I've enjoyed tooling around in the links - Thanks for sharing.

  10. Wow you have some great ideas here! You are really hot this season. I love seeing what you are doing and what inspires you and your students!

  11. So excited for all of these ideas. Just got my new iPad and will love using it for Poetry Friday.

  12. What an inspired idea! I love the idea of a digital poetry collection. This is truly inspiring and like what Irene said, it's like crossing over to a different territory altogether. Many thanks for all the links that you shared as well. :)

  13. Mary Lee! You inspire me. Thank you for all of these resources and links. So much to learn and so much to try, and I am so glad to have you as my teacher in here. I'm excited to jump in, once I can figure out where to begin. Happy Poetry Saturday today! a.
    (verification - 'restruck' - as in "I am restruck with awe by Mary Lee!")

  14. Thank you for highlighting these applications, Mary Lee. I will absolutely experiment with some of these over the next few months as I continue to feel my way around the "public" side of poetry.

    I firmly believe that certain topics lend themselves to one poetic form over another. I had never even considered that that would extend beyond meter/rhyme/pace and into digital format as well. Really interesting stuff.

    Thanks again!


  15. Thank you for all these delvings into the possibilities and resopurces of e-poetry...

    Andf thinking about the suggestion of a fifteen word poem reminds me of an English Teacher I had who would make us write "5-line poems", both in class and as "punishments" if we forgot a book etc. - 4x iambs,then 3x, 4x and 3x, abab rhyming, and then the fifth line could be absolutely anything - one word to a long sentence... he would set the title and off we'd go. The more successful ones were then pinned on a board. Great fun!

  16. Holy mackerel! You are amazing. I couldn't open the Toondoo thingy--issues with my laptop (I can't open the roundup host's blog, either, so I'm just wandering around to the usual PF participants to catch up:>)

    Anyway, turning poetry into digital/visual art is fascinating. The trouble I have with it is that it controls the speed at which I have to absorb the poem. I wanted to read the freedom poem more slowly and the one about questioning sentences and the 15WOL one, too.

    I've really liked some of the poem collages I've seen, but they were one image, and I could stare at it and absorb it at my own speed.

    Finally, I LOVE what you did with the 15 Words or Less thing. SOOOO cool. And kids would love seeing their words on screen immediately. My brain is spinning! I'm wondering if I can adapt this in my school visits or at least in my young authors conference workshops. Creating something like this on the fly and being able to post it online so they can grab it afterward if they want--genius, Mary Lee!

  17. I really like your 15 words or less visual poems idea, too, Mary Lee. Great food for thought!


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