January 25th is a day of celebration in Scotland. That’s because it’s Robbie Burns Day, the birthday of Scottish poet Robert Burns. In fact, this holiday is celebrated in many different places in the world—even in Vancouver, Canada!
In some places, Robbie Burns Day is known as Burns Night. This day is celebrated in many ways, ranging from bagpipe music to recitals of Burns’ poetry. In Scotland, this event is often represented by a formal party called a “Burns Supper,” which features the reading of a Burns poem called “Address to a Haggis.” Haggis is a Scottish meal that is made from a special recipe using the internal organs of sheep along with oatmeal, onions, and spices.
Robert Burns lived in the 18th century in Ayrshire, a rural area in Scotland. Burns is sometimes called the “ploughman poet” because he spent much of his life as a farmer. However, he was well educated, having studied Latin and French as well as the works of many important writers, such as William Shakespeare. He was introduced to many Scottish legends and folk songs by his mother.
Tanka, which means “short song,” has been an important literary form in Japanese culture for nearly a thousand years. The original Japanese form of tanka had only one line of poetry containing 31 speech sounds—what we would call syllables. However, most tanka poems that are written in English today are broken into five poetic lines with a certain number of syllables in each line.
The basic structure of a tanka poem is 5 – 7 – 5 – 7 – 7. In other words, there are 5 syllables in line 1, 7 syllables in line 2, 5 syllables in line 3, and 7 syllables in lines 4 and 5. If you have ever written a haiku, you will notice that tanka is kind of like a longer version of haiku that gives you a little more room to tell a story. Here is one example of a tanka poem:
Concrete poetry—sometimes also called ‘shape poetry’—is poetry whose visual appearance matches the topic of the poem. The words form shapes which illustrate the poem’s subject as a picture, as well as through their literal meaning.
This type of poetry has been used for thousands of years, since the ancient Greeks began to enhance the meanings of their poetry by arranging their characters in visually pleasing ways back in the 3rd and 2nd Centuries BC.
A famous example is “The Mouse’s Tale” from Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The shape of the poem is a pun on the word tale/tail, as the words follow a long wiggling line getting smaller and smaller and ending in a point.
The name “Concrete Poetry,” however, is from the 1950’s, when a group of Brazilian poets called the Noigandres held an international exhibition of their work, and then developed a “manifesto” to define the style.
The manifesto states that concrete poetry ‘communicates its own structure: structure = content’
Martin Luther King, Jr. was an incredible orator, harnessing the power of words rather than weapons as he lead this country on its road to civil liberty. In fact, many of his speeches have the power of poetry, using some of the same conventions writers use when composing poems: alliteration, personification, simile, repetition, metaphor, and even rhyme. So, what better way to celebrate Martin Luther King Day than with words?
Here are some examples of poetry based activities you can do to commemorate Martin Luther King, Jr. on the third Monday of each January… or any time you feel so inspired!
Free verse is one of the simplest, and yet most difficult, type of poetry to write. While it doesn’t constrict the poet with rules about form, it requires him or her to work hard at creating a piece that is beautiful and meaningful without any specific guidelines about rhyme and meter. If you’d like to try your hand at free verse, there are a few tips (not rules) that will help as you develop your own style.
Choosing Words Carefully
Carefully chosen words can help you create a poem that sounds like the situation, emotion, or object you are trying to portray. For instance, short words with sharp consonants cause the reader to stop-and- go in a choppy cadence: Cut, bash, stop, kick, lick, bite, punch, jump, stick, kiss. They almost sound like what they mean. Use these types of short words when you want to show excitement, fear, anger, new love, or anything that might make your heart beat quickly. Longer words with soft sounds cause the reader to slow down. Use them when you want to show pause, tension, laziness, rest.
Have you ever written a poem, only to be told that the rhymes sound “forced,” but didn’t know exactly what that meant? It can be confusing, because a “forced rhyme” may be any one of a number of different things. All of them, however, can make a poem less enjoyable to read. So, to improve your poetry as much as possible, you’ll want to learn how to avoid each of the various types of forced rhymes.
Rearranging a phrase to put the rhyme at the end of the line
Probably the most common type of forced rhyme is where the poet says something in an unnatural way in order to make the line rhyme. For example, take a look at this couplet:
Whenever we go out and walk,
with you I like to talk.
Now, in normal, everyday English, you would never say “with you I like to talk.” Instead, you would say “I like to talk with you.” And yet, some poets will write this unnatural way in order to force the lines to rhyme with one another; hence the term “forced” rhyme.
Having an open mic poetry party is a great way for kids to showcase their talent while encouraging them to keep writing. Whether the children are budding poets, stand-up comedians, or just need some practice with public speaking, in a few simple steps you can provide everyone with a fun way to enjoy live poetry!
Step One: Decide on a Venue
Think about the type of party you’d like to host. Will it be a small gathering of friends, perhaps for a birthday or special occasion? Is it for your class, scout troop, or youth group? The size of the group, as well as the purpose of the party, will help you determine your venue.
There are many different places that would be great for an open mic night/party. Libraries have meeting rooms or sometimes stages that can be reserved for free or very low cost. Book stores and coffee shops often host open mic nights and poetry readings. Rooms in schools and churches can also provide a nice space. Even just your own living room can work well for small groups.
Once you decide on a space, you’ll have to call ahead and book it, as sometimes locations require reservations weeks or even months in advance.
Visual artists sometimes talk about using “found objects” in their artwork. In other words, they collect interesting things during the course of a normal day (such as bus tickets, objects from nature, or a toy found on the street) and then find a way to incorporate those objects into their artwork.
Did you know that you can do the same thing with language? A “found poem” is created by collecting interesting text from the world around us and then using those words to make a poem. When you create poetry this way, you are acting like a documentary filmmaker—using scenes from real life to tell an interesting story.
Here are three simple and fun ways to create “found poetry” from the language that is all around you.
For many years, I’ve wanted to add some of my favorite classic children’s poems to Poetry4kids.com; the poems I read and had read to me as a child. I have always thought it would be a good idea to have an easy way for teachers, parents, and children to explore some of the most popular poems of the English language. Today, I finally accomplished that goal.
Poetry4kids.com now has a new Classics section where I have begun posting some of my favorite, and many of the most well-known poems written for children over the past few hundred years. For starters, these include such famous poems as Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky,” Clement Moore’s “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” and Ernest Lawrence Thayer’s “Casey at the Bat.” I have posted 15 poems to start, and will continue posting more classic poems weekly, with the hope of eventually having hundreds of classic poems for you to enjoy.
Read and Rate Classic Poems
Even better, I have included the ability for readers to rate each poem (1-5 stars). The more highly-rated poems will appear at the top of the page, while the less popular poems will be farther down the page (or may get booted from the page altogether). This way you can easily see which poems are the most well-loved by readers, and even vote for your own favorites.
If your child or teen has a burgeoning interest in being a writer, there are many ways to encourage this newfound interest. Here are seven suggestions for supporting the literary urge in young members of your family.
1: Offer your child fun writing tools
Your young poet or novelist will appreciate a field trip together to choose special writing tools. Depending on his or her personality, your child might prefer to write in a lined journal, in a blank art sketchbook, on monogrammed stationery, or even on neon-colored legal pads. He or she might like a set of colored gel pens, a set of fine-tipped Sharpie markers, or a fresh set of sharpened #2 pencils. See How to Start a Poetry Journal for ideas on different kinds of journals your child might prefer.
Some older kids or teens might prefer a digital environment for writing. But there are still ways to provide cool writing tools for a computer or mobile device. For example, you can download a free application at OmmWriter.com that is similar to Microsoft Word, but with a minimalist interface and relaxing music.
Children of all ages will enjoy seeing their finished poems or stories in print. It’s easy to create a poetry chapbook using a word processing program and your home printer. You can bind the book yourself with a hole punch and ribbon, or take it to a copy shop to be perfect-bound in order to look more like a “real book.”