You Can’t Write a Poem About…

25 08 2010

On the second day of school I read with my students the poem, You Can’t Write a Poem About McDonald’s by Ronald Wallace (see the end of the post  for a copy of the poem).

I love using this poem because it shows students that poetry can be about many things and not just nature, love, rainbows or some of the stereotypical topics kids may think of.

I read the poem aloud with them and then give each group a copy to look at. I have them look for lines with sensory language, images, descriptions and voice expression. I have each group share their favorite lines with the class. We loved looking at the rich descriptions and could picture ourselves being at a fast food restaurant.

We then brainstormed other things that kids said we couldn’t write a poem about…. they came up with some good ideas- you can’t write a poem about:

a poem, graph paper, a pencil, nothing, pirates, Walmart

This would be a great challenge to kids to see if they could write a poem about some topics they brainstormed. It gives kids who have no idea what to write a poem about a topic!

I started a “Poems we Read Together” folder that I put on the board with a copy of each poem we look at as a class together. I think it may be a good place for kids to look back through to get writing ideas.

I also started a list on the board (you could do chart paper) where we list Poetry ideas. For the first idea I put-

You can’t write a poem about…

You Can’t Write a Poem about McDonald’s

Noon.  Hunger the only thing

singing in my belly.

I walk through the blossoming cherry trees

on the library mall,

past the young couples coupling,

by the crazy fanatic

screaming doom and salvation

at a sensation-hungry crowd,

to the Lake Street McDonald’s.

It is crowded, the lines long and sluggish.

I wait in the greasy air.

All around me people are eating—

the sizzle of conversation,

the salty odor of sweat,

the warm flesh pressing out of

hip huggers and halter tops.

When I finally reach the cash register,

the counter girl is crisp as a pickle,

her fingers thin as french fries,

her face brown as a bun.

Suddenly I understand cannibalism.

As I reach for her, she breaks into pieces

wrapped neat and packaged for take-out.

I’m thinking, how amazing it is

to live in this country, how easy

it is to be filled.

We leave together, her warm aroma

close at my side.

I walk back through the cherry trees

blossoming up into pies,

the young couples frying in

the hot, oily sun,

the crowd eating up the fanatic,

singing, my ear, eye and tongue

fat with the wonder

of this hungry world.

–Robert Wallace

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31 08 2010
Poetry, Poetry, Poetry…. « Read… Write… Talk…

[…] is our brainstorming board after we read the poem, You Can’t Write a Poem about McDonalds (click here for previous post). I challenged the kids to come up with ideas of things to write in a poem titled- You Can’t […]

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