Saturday, April 18, 2009

Poetry Month -- Inner Chimes

Inner Chimes: Poems on Poetry
selected by Bobbye S. Goldstein
illustrations by Jane Breskin Zalben
Boyds Mills Press, 1992

I shared a poem from this book with my class yesterday -- "Take a Word Like Cat" by Karla Kuskin. We've been exploring the truth that one often must read a poem more than once for it to make sense. Here is the beginning and ending of Kuskin's poem:

Take a word like cat
And build around it;
A fur room over here
A long meow
Floating from the chimney like a smoke tail.
Draw with words.
Balance them like blocks.
When everything is perfect in its place
Step back to view the home
That you have built of words around your word.
It is a poem.

Most of the students got lost on the second line in the first reading. Not a single child knew what to do with the ending. So we decided to read it again! We had some questions about building with words and we were trying to visualize all the cat-related imagery that Kuskin includes in the middle of the poem.

When we got to the end the second time, K just about exploded with excitement. "I get it! I get it! It's a poem about writing a poem about a cat! When the poem says balance words like blocks, that's what you do in a poem when you make short lines!"

With this new-found power to crack open a poem and understand it, K read poetry for the entire SSR time.

INNER CHIMES is one of my all-time favorite books of poetry. Poems that think about themselves, poems that explore the writing of poetry, poems that give the reader a glimpse into the poet's process...what could be better?!

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