I remember when I was young, I found a high school poetry book on my brother’s bookshelf. I still have the book. It was a small little text explaining poetry elements and types of poems. It gave examples and structural analysis. I loved that little book, using each page as an example for my next poetry attempt. I learned to use poetry as launching pad for my original writing.
I used this same idea with my own children and students. We read poems with an eye for the ones that inspire our own writing. I recently came across the poem “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” by Wallace Stevens. One young student was inspired to write about a cardinal, taken from various visual perspectives. We began by drawing a picture of the cardinal in a tree, then drew her on a branch above, from a window across, standing below, etc. She used the picture to help her look for images online from the proper visual perspective. (Finding one from above was difficult. Enjoy reading her perspectives, entitled “Cardinal Poems” (below).
Consider using online images (or your own photographs) to write various ways of looking at nature. When we write from different physical perspectives, we stretch our observational skills. When we write from different emotional perspectives, we stretch our insight. When we write from different character perspectives, we stretch our writing skills.
A bird feeder is a nice setting for perspective poetry. Our perspectives can be based on angle, as in the “Cardinal Poems” by my student. The perspectives may be based on attitude, as in why I despise the squirrels who steal the food and why I love the squirrels that steal the food. The perspectives can be from various creatures who come to the feeder: the cardinal, the yellow finch, the squirrel, the neighbor’s cat, and the home owner.
Let poetry inspire our own poetry!
The cardinal sits atop a pine tree,
Completely full of glee,
His red crest stands out,
And from my window I look out,
Pointing in my direction is his beak,
He is about to speak.
I sit beside the glorious cardinal,
Who makes a signal,
A signal of handsomeness,
And also brightness,
It has sharp wings,
And it sings.
Wings round together,
He is clever,
There I sit on a branch above him,
And below, he sits on his limb,
His crest reaches towards me,
like red fingers leaping at me.
A scarlet breast he has,
And the sharp claws that he has,
The tips of his wings point down at me
He cocks his head, his eyes towards me,
His bright red beak points at me,
Ever ready to sing a song to me.
With a sharp beak,
That he needs,
A gorgeous crest he has,
He is quite a spaz.
The Glorious Cardinal
There sits the glorious cardinal, his feathers a bright array,
He sings glorious songs for many a day,
Flames grow from his bright red head,
Black bleeds into a rich red,
A black crown he wears with pride,
Looking for a wondrous bride,
He has black glinting eyes,
And from a tree he looks from the highs.