Friday, February 2, 2024

Coaxing Poems 5: Tell Us a Story


Hello again, you sweet Poetry Friends! Welcome to the fifth of ten poetry visits at The Poem Farm. In each of these short videos, I will share a small something about poetry, and you will always be able to find the poem(s) I read below the video. If you wish, you may watch the earlier videos linked below:


And now I invite you to join me for Visit 5: Tell Us a Story!

Students - Today, as we think about about story poems - narrative poems - we simply think about all of the elements of story and mix them elegantly with all of the elements of poetry. Think of it this way:

Plot, Characters, & Setting + Line Breaks, Pattern, & Metaphor... = Story Poem

Story Poem Still Life
Photo by Amy LV

In this first free verse story poem, I invent a character related to a character we all know. I invent the problem and the setting for this character. The poem also has a problem, solution, beginning, middle, and end. 

You may notice the repeated words and the places where I chose to move to a new line. As (mostly) always, I drafted this poem by hand. In the revision, I experimented with my line breaks. The enter key is very helpful for poets who do some revision at the computer.

The below poem is about characters who usually do not talk at all - Rain and a flower. When we write story poems, we can include dialogue, just as we include dialogue in our prose (not poem) stories. Can you find the places where characters speak in this poem?

This poem and the next do include a bit of rhyme, rhyme that makes sense. I am not striving to rhyme with this series, but truth be told, a baby fox, rhyme sneaks in under the wire fence of my free verse intentions.

This next poem is in the I (first person) voice. A reader might assume that the speaker is actually me, but as writers, we can use the I voice as ourselves or we can write in the I voice pretending to be someone or something else. I have been thinking about the idea of a "word bouquet" for a couple of weeks now. Sometimes a thought needs to live in our notebook and mind for a while before finding its way into a poem or story.

What do you notice about the line breaks in this poem? What do the short lines do for a reader?

As you read and write story (narrative) poems, talk with each other about the following:
  • Who are the characters?
  • What is the setting?
  • Is there a problem? If yes, what is it?
  • How does the problem get solved?
  • What happens at the beginning, middle end?
  • Do the characters change?

Talk about these too:
  • Does this story (narrative) poem feel like it could really happen?
  • Is this a fiction story?
  • Might this story be a blend of fiction and truth?
  • Is this poem based in history?

And these:
  • What do we notice about the line breaks?
  • Does the poet repeat any lines? Why so?
  • Do we find any interesting repetition?
  • Are there metaphors? Are they fresh?
  • What language dance moves do we admire in this poem?
  • What makes this poem "poem-y?"

As you think and talk about these questions, you will discover ideas for your own poems. When writers read, we learn new writing ideas, especially when we try.

One reason I enjoy writing poems so much is because the words simply surprise me on the page. If I did not write poems, I would never have met Little Red Riding Hood's younger brother or heard a conversation between Rain and a flower or written the words "jam jar vase." An afternoon of writing offered me these gifts.

Poems cannot be wrong. Yes, if we read and write many poems, there will be poems we prefer...but poems are not wrong. Experiment! Play with your life and with your words. We each get one life and as many words as we wish - we can choose joy in our lives and in our words.

Mary Lee is hosting this week's Poetry Friday over at A(nother) Year of Reading with thoughts and a poem about secrets. Each Friday, all are invited to share poems, poem books, poetry ideas, and friendship in this open and welcoming poetry community.

Happy story-collecting, my dears...



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  1. What a treasure trove this is, Amy. That thirsty little violet (and crying rain) was so sweet. And I love the point that poems cannot be wrong.

  2. Thank you for these useful ways to think about and create story poems, Amy!

  3. Amy, I've enjoyed watching your poem coaxing videos. Thank you for teaching little ones and adults too!

  4. Can't wait to try a few of these. You are such a good teacher, Amy.

  5. Such fantastic mentor texts for poets of all ages and stages! I'm excited to see which siblings of well-known characters I might meet as I write! THANK YOU!

  6. As always, a treasure trove of goodness and inspiration. Thank you, Amy!

  7. This is wonderful! I love the violet and the rain, and your thought about a word bouquet blossomed into such a delightful poem! I appreciate the reminder to look for subjects who don't have a voice and try to uncover/discover it. Thanks!

  8. Oh my goodness! The surreality of that Blue poem mesmerized me. And the rain, poor, unappreciated rain. Thank you for the voices of the not-stars, Amy!

  9. Lots of wonderful ideas and inspiration here today! Thanks for sharing it with us.