About Hands on Stanzas

Hands on Stanzas, the educational outreach program of the Poetry Center of Chicago places professional, teaching Poets in residence at Chicago Public Schools across the city. Poets teach the reading, discussion, and writing of poetry to 3 classes over the course of 20 classroom visits, typically from October through April. Students improve their reading, writing, and public speaking skills, and participating teachers report improved motivation and academic confidence. You can contact Cassie Sparkman, Director of the Hands on Stanzas program, by phone: 312.629.1665 or by email: csparkman(at)poetrycenter.org for more information.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Creation Myths -- James Weldon Johnson's The Creation

Creation myths are stories about the origin of man that all cultures from the beginning of time have attempted to explain. We discussed myths from ancient Africa, Asia, Greece, Middle East, and Native America. Many of these myths had similar themes and symbols of life. The students wrote their own version of the creation of the Earth and Man.

Vivian M

Today the world is created
By a war between two gods
But an angel helps God win
Then he became a God
Then he made
Trees out of wood
He made the sky
By water
A moon
Can be made by clay

How The World Was Made
Veronica M

One day God
Wanted to go down from the sky
He didn’t see anything
He decided to make a lot of things
But first he needed a place
To put all of the stuff
So he created a big place
And called it the World.
Every time he moved
A thing appeared
But he couldn’t make anything
So he cried so hard
That with his tears
He made lakes
And seven seas
But all he saw was water and dirt
So with the dirt
He decided to make mountains
He said this world
Doesn’t have color in int
So I am going to create flowers
And grass and a lot of trees
He made the world a better place
But nobody lived there
So he decided to make a lot of animals
Like deers, and dogs, and so much more
He said it is perfect
But something is missing
He said “I’ll make someone
And I’ll call it a person
A human”
He made two humans
One was the man
And one was the woman
And it was perfect
The man and the woman
Helped him with his world
By gathering the wood
From the trees
And made a house
But there was no light
So with the power
He made the Sun
And when the sun is out
He would call it Day
He created another one
This one was the Moon
But this one wasn’t hot
And when the moon was out
It was Night
And everybody has to sleep
To rest
And the Day is to work
To play
One day the woman was sick
She felt bad
And months later
Something came out of her stomach
It was another human
We said we would call it a baby
The world was great
But the bad thing was
That I needed it to go
Home on the blue sky.

Andrea C

When the world was created
I thought about light in the sky
I started creating stars
They shine like diamonds
In the sky
The moon came from
A white dream I had
In white
The trees were for
The animals to hide
The flowers remind me
Of the shirt I had the other day
The wind was made
When I sneeze
But after all the work
I felt lonely
So I decided to make a friend
Who would help me
And be my friend
But I could think
How he would look
Like a person
That could fly and talk
So I decided to create
An angel
He and me
Created the water
From tears
When he was not there for me
On cold, cold winter
I wanted to snow
And from the tears I cried
This is how the snow was made
And hard, hard wind
Came from my sneezing
The animals came
From my dads snorings
The turtle is as slow
As when I am sleepy
I walk slow and bump my head
And fall
The bunny is as soft
As my pillow
I don’t understand
Why I didn’t make
The cat that barks
And the dog that meows

Edwin N

I am God
I always flap my wings
In my tears
And make water
I made the sun
Out of mirrors
Held against the sky
And there is light
The sand made people
The sun made the moon
I made the animals
The same way I made people
I made the mountains
Out of saliva
The trees come from my hair
All I do is make my hair
Really really hard
And I am God
So I am beautiful
And I’m going to be around
For a really long time.

Fabian J

The god Eethline
He fought with Chrome
As they stepped
Mountains were made
Plains were flattened
When they hit each other
Blood flew out
Hit the floor
And turned to people and animals
One drop of blood
Flew up so high
It turned to sun
And a bit of saliva flew
Oh so high
It turned to moon
Without a lie, son
The earth was made
With people, animals, and life

Silverio G

What I think
The world was
Created by God
I think he created land
I think water
Came from a god
From Egypt
I think in a thousand years
The world is going to rise
The land is going to rise
The water and the fire
The angels are going
To blow the horn
When it’s time
For the world to end

Jasmine W

As God makes a man
A man wants a woman
He calls up on God
And asks can he get one

He pulls out a rib
And points it to the sky
Then God reaches down
And grabs the tiny rib
He said a few words
And a beautiful woman appears
God thought they both were beautiful
So he had to give them a name
He thought to his self
What about Adam and Eve
And that’s when the first
Humans were made

As God thought to himself
Since there are humans
Where will they live?
So he started to think
Of all these wonderful ideas
With grass, animals, plants and rivers
Now they were happy
But everything was flat
And now no one was happy

So God picked up the earth
And spun it around
Put it in space
And that’s how the Earth got round
Now the humans are happy once again
And that is the story
Of woman and man

Jesse H

It started with a bird
It was a simple eagle
Placed on earth to fly
Yet she was lonely
So she asked God
“please give me the power
to create life”
and so it began
the life of human beings
animals and dinosaurs
now the world was
a peaceful place
until the dinosaurs rebelled
they said “we shall rule
this land, for we
are the strongest things on the planet”
then God responded
“You are the stronges
in this planet
but not in the heavens”
And with this
God sucked the life
Out of the big reptiles

Odes- Pablo Neruda's Ode to Clothes

What do Shakespeare and Beyonce have in common? Odes. Love poems honoring a person or a place, or a time, or object. Pablo Neruda wrote many odes to unusual things. Things we love or appreciate, but take for granted, like clothes, or fruit, or a large tuna. Here are some lovely odes to unusual things

Ode to a Pencil!
Karina A

Day and night
You’re used all over the world
Writing letters and notes
Telling secrets,
And myths.
Creating new words
Making someone feel
Or get mad
If you ever wonder
Without you
There’s no expression
And no life

Jesse H

Luck, why do you hide?
When we need you the most
You vanish
And now you laugh at us
But please don’t leave us
At our time of need
Have you teamed up with death?
You always were a pesk at times
But know you are neutral
Since you have been gone
Death has taken your place
I’m tired of this game
Of hide and seek
Yet I don’t want to lose
But give me a hint
Of where to find you

Ode to washing dishes
Erica H

The sound of the water
Coming out of the faucet
Sounds smooth and relaxing
It takes me to another place
Where there are no conflicts
Only peace
The soap between my fingers
Feels smoothly
When the dishes get clean
They look so bright
And makes me feel good
When I’m washing dishes
I doze off into my own world
Thoughts pop into my head
And I feel happy and relaxed
You drift me away
Into a peaceful place

Ode to Stars
Ruth C

Every night I look up
To see you Stars
You all are the ones
Who are with me all the time
In the night
You all are pretty
You all are shine
You all are the pretty
I always wanted
You all have been
In my past
For a long time
I have shared my life
With you all the time
You all are the only
Ones who make my wish come ture
You all are the ones
Are in my dreams
Every time I don’t see you all
I have a nightmare.
I hope you never go
My beautiful stars

Andrea B

Ooooh how I like
My gum
So chewy
And tasty
Oooh how I like
My gum
Some people say
I say that I just like it
Oh I say
That I am a gumoholic
I confess I am I am
Oh how I love gum

Oh my…
Tony V

To wear you is an honor
You keep me warm during the day
You can be stylish
Or blah
But you are loved anyway
When I take you off
It’s like a sad movie
I wait and wait
Til the next day comes
And once again
We are reunited

Macaroni & Cheese
Jocelyn Brito

That smell like roses
And pizza
That tell me
Sleep in my bed
Is soft like a pillow
And when my mom
Cook macaroni and cheese
Makes me wake up
And when I eat it
I feel soft on my mouth
And is hot also
I always say to my mom
“I want more Macaroni & Cheese”
I wonder if my mom
Will do me Macaroni & Cheese
On my birthday
When my mom does not do
Macaroni & Cheese
It’s a bad thing
My mom is a little tired
Because I tell her to do
Macaroni & Cheese
And then do more
Macaroni & Cheese
And then she does
And now I like
A little bit.

Veronica M

Reading books
Books with words
Books with poems
Books that are small
Books that are big
With lots and lots of words
Books of non fiction
Fairy tail
And lots more things
Reading books
with experiments
And history
And even books
with mysteries
when I read
I want to laugh
I want to cry
Or sometimes I feel angry
But every book
Has it’s feelings
Books with new technology
Or inventors
Books with things
That have never been invented
Books with people
Who remind me
Of someone I know

Edgar R

Hair-the Big Thing
Growing hair
Bald people feel bad
Probably they want it
Like a flowing river
Sweep the floor
With big hair
Lasso a cow
Paint with your hair
Cut your hair
Make a pillow out of hair
Make a sculpture out of hair
Grass is jealous of hair

Giselle S

I’ve had my blanket
Since I was a baby
I hide it from my mom
So she can’t take it
And give it to my baby sister
I hide it in my special closet
Under my clothes
I have it now
And I won’t give it to anybody
That blanket belongs to me
And I would keep it
Until I’m 15 years old
Or more
I would love it
Until my blanket is little

Perverbs- Harry Mathews

Proverbs are such an integral part of language, of how we communicate. Clever phrases and important lessons are timeless and have been threaded through cultures all over the world for hundreds of years. In Perverbs, Harry Mathews uses 46 well known proverbs and twists them into new life lessons. Below are some new "perverbs" written by the students.

I van G

Time makes one worth two in the bush
Time makes one wait for no man
Time makes one come down
Time makes one take warning
Time makes angels fear to tread
Time makes one stop digging
Time makes one fix it
Time makes one try again
Time makes one being nice
Time makes one go to the mountain
Time makes one expect the worst.


Money talks with a loved one
Do not dwell with another man’s poison
A loved one is another man’s treasure

Edgar R

Ideas are where the heart is
Two ideas are better than one
Unveil the road to hell
Ideas are mighter than the sword
Ideas is cheap
You can’t make an omlete
Without breaking a few ideas
The best ideas come in small packages
Ideas goes around
Ideas makes perfect

Mrs. Cantu/Mrs Rawls- 6/7th grades

Mario C

It’s your luck time
To set your sights high
And go for it
It ain’t broke, try again
Hope for the best, go with the flow
I think, I came, I saw
Therefore I am
One good turn deserves
Another money talks
A friend in need
Is a friend in pain
Cry me a river,
And make lemonade
A watched pot never boils
And ends well

Mirelle R

Treat yourself to speak louder than words
A snitch in time, especially this week
Prevention is better, especially this week
Treat yourself to stolen fruit
Variety is the spice to something special
Practice makes something special
Seize from every moment, it’s worth a thousand words
Something special is ruined by a drop of poison

Jose L

Life is a series of spilt milk
Life is a series of book by its cover
Life is a series of eggs in one basket
Life is a series of mountains out of mole hills

Christian E

A new relationship is a virtue
A new relationship is paved with good intentions
A new relationship makes you stronger
A new relationship comes around
A new relationships awaits no man
A new relationship comes before the storm
A new relationship wasn’t built in a day

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Poems on Narrative: Annibelle Lee by Edgar Allen Poe

An oral tradition, narrative poems tell great stories of love, and war, and legends. We read Poe's love/grief stricken poem and I passed out headlines cut from the newspaper. The students wrote their own narrative poem based on the headline they drew from my bag.

Mrs. Bunkowski, Grade 3

Veronica M

If It’s No The Pickpockets, It’s the Killer Ants

Every person lost their things
People thought it was the pickpockets
They were not sure
So they looked closely
But nothing
People took their pants
Their purses
To the scientists
Scientists were so smart
The scientists were looking for fingerprints
But they found tiny, small, footprints
It was tiny, small.
Smell like killer ants
Scientists were so worried
Because killer ants bite
And if they bite you
You can turn into a killer ant, too.
Three days later people
Or, should I say ANTS
Killer Ants came
So worried that all the people on Earth
Were not people anymore
People were ants
No more people
And then a big noise
Appeared louder and louder
A little girl
Turned off her alarm
And it was just a dream

Eddie O

He Can’t Stop Looking Over His Shoulder

I am so mad
Because I don’t like
Her looking over my shoulder
It is annoying
I would like her to go away
And I will be happy
When she goes away
Oh no! She came back
Now I am mad
Now I hope she doesn’t come back
Because it makes me mad
When somebody looks
Over my shoulder

Vivian M

A True Outsider

A true outsider has a dream
But it has to have a stem
A true outsider
Can have an idea
To do a poem
Like a dream
But a true outsider
Can sometimes be quiet

Fernando S

Did He Or Didn’t He?

Did he read my book
Or did he look at my picture
Or didn’t he?
Did he get grounded
Or did he slap me
Or am I just dreaming
Or did I…
Was it a dream?
My mom
Did she have another baby
Or didn’t she?

Edgar R

The Secret Of Shalloboi

Shalloboi everyone is asking
What is shalloboi?
I say hobo’s
There’s a secret to the hobo’s
Some say they are poor
Some say there’s no more
Hope for them
But I discovered their rich.
When they dirty their clothes
They wear it on the streets
So they could get some extra cash
They’re injured because they
Had an accident
So that’s the secret of shalloboi

Mrs. Cantu/Mrs. Rawls Grade 6/7

Fabian J

Placing my bets
What I bet
I’ll never forget
I lost my fortune
To my friend Gordon
My house, my cars and all
I know I can’t fall
Deeper into bad luch
I was a drunk duck
7 beers and whine
I paid a fine
53 million
I thought I could’ve won
But I lost
Now I hat black jack
And even shot Jack Black
I can’t believe
Poor and in jail
There’s no deeper Than a jail cell

Daniel M

He Can’t Stop Looking Over His Shoulder

Did he commit a murder?
I think so
I’ve been sitting here
For quite some time
Call some back up
That man just can’t stop
Looking over his shoulder
He looks suspicious
I’ll follow him
Every step of the way
To see where he’ll lead me
He can’t stop
Looking over his shoulder
I think he committed a murder
He looks very suspicious
And looking right at me
I think I should do something
To see what’s going on
I should question him
Man oh man
He looks so very suspicious
Minute by minute
Hour by hour
That man keeps looking
Over his shoulder
The next day
He got away
And for me to find out
He committed a murder
To be continued….

Juan R

Welcome To The Darkside

Welcome to the darkside
Where there is a lot
Of nightmares
And there’s a lot
Of death
Where you could die
For a lie
And where you could
Die for a death

Mario C

$320 Million To Burn, But There’s A Catch

It was Feb 14, 2008
In a store by my street
There clerk said
I won $320 million
But there’s a catch
He said I have to
Run with no clothes on
I didn’t want to be embarrassed
In that store by my street

Carlos A

To Pull A Thorn From The Side Of The Planet

To pull a thorn
From the side of the planet
Is like a bomb
And pulling the ring
And you
Blowing into a million pieces
In the air
Floating in space
For years and years
My love waiting
For all those years
Knowing I would
Never see her again
I know she is thinking about me
And my million pieces
Were thinking about her
Aliens found me
They put my body back
And send me back to Earth
When I went looking
For my love
She was with another man
I felt like
A million pieces again

Fernando G

A True Outsider

A true outsider
Is like a stick of apple cider
A true outsider
Wouldn’t hide herself
She tries to cover herself
With fur
It’s all over her shirt
She doesn’t want to get hurt
A true outsider
Stays away from the insiders of the world

Mrs. Salinas, Grade 8

Angelica R

Local Girlfriend Always?

Finds her boyfriend cheating
She yells and cries,
And forgives him
She’s heartbroken
Her boyfriend leaves
Her for another woman
She’s devastated
And can’t take
Anymore sadness
She decides to go to the park
She stays there til dusk and…
Sweet sweet girlfriend
Never to be seen again
Who might know
What really happened for sure
We’ll never know the truth

Lance P

The Beach Party Moves Indoors

The beach party moves indoors
Why go to the beach
When I can bring the beach to us
We can have a beach party
In my house
I will order a sand truck
And flood the house with water
My parents are out of town
Until next week
The house is flooded
With water and sand
I don’t know how
I’m going to clean it up
We were partying
The day away
My parents walk in
I’m busted
I thought I was in big trouble
But my parents joined the party

Ricardo Z

Te despido por faltarme al respeto I
Y por no benir atrabajar sin permiso a faltar
Te despido por que
Una de mis cameras
Te grabaron cuando
Estabas buscando problemas
Y el otro dia
Te miro una camera
Cuando estabas robando

I fire you for being disrespectful
And for not showing up to work
Without permission
I fire you because
One of my cameras
Taped you when
You were looking for problems
And the other day
The camera saw you steal

Poems on Character: A Boy's Head by Miroslave Holoub

Holub's poem focuses on the random things that float through a boy's head: a spaceship, a project for doing away with piano lessons, etc. I asked the students to consider the heads of others, like a dog, a baby, a teacher, a scientest. What kind of things do these beings think about?

Mrs. Bunkowski, 3rd grade


Race car drivers
think about winning
life is in danger
do not care about car
passing the flag

Ivan A

A hobo thinks about his wife
and his kids
The thinks about
how he got like this
He thinks about
looking in the trash can
About sleeping under a bridge
About eating from the trash
I wish to give
a hobo a s'more

Mrs Cantu 6/7th grade

Christian G

In my uncles head
There's lots of stuff
Like scary, deadly, bloody movies
He thinks about
Rock and Roll and metal
He thinks about
Drawing scary stuff
He thinks about
Drinking beer and alcohol
He thinks about
Football and soccer
He thinks about
Making fun of people
And those are the things
My uncle is thinking about

Mrs. Salinas, 8th grade

Jesse H

As I sat by the porch
My brain burning like a torch
I asked myself
“Why do my dogs act so crazy?”
Suddenly, they came up to me
and spoke
“If you wish to seek our knowledge,
simply ask”
All of the sudden
Bones of all shapes
And sizes
Popped out
Along with toys
I asked
“Why do you guys
Chase cats?”
“We don’t chase,
We’ve been playing tag
for over a hundred years,
yet we cannot catch them.”
This confused me so,
Yet I was happy

Jasmine W

In the head of a psycho
There’s a master plan
For doing away
With all his enemies

For thnking of how
To steal some drugs
Or thinking about where
He’s going to get money
To get high

In a head of a psycho
He’s worried how he’s
Going to escape, escape to
Somewhere far or just
Thinking about going away

Dying, killing, stealing
For drugs, giving up on life
There’s no one to love
No one to cherish
No one to hug

He’s thinking in his mind
About why his family is gone

An Addict
Raquel S

He sits there with
A needle on the table
Why should I do this
I should not do this
But by that time
His arm is tied up
And a needle
Has pierced his skin
Why did I do this
I hate this!
I can’t stop!
I can’t stop!
Why did I do this!

In the head of a cat
Lance P

The cat is thinking…..
I’m hungry
What does this do
I wanna chase something
I’m gonna jump on the table
Will someone please clean my litter box
I need my claws trimmed
I need to groom
I’m going to be lazy today
I’m going to be hyper today
I want cat nip
Oh, and I want to see
My parents and siblings

Poems about Metaphor: Dickinson's I Like to See it Lap the Miles/ Because I Could Not Stop for Death

Metaphor saturates every day language. We use metaphor to compare abstract conecepts like love, and anger, to something more tangable.

Mrs. Salinas, Grade 8

Erika H

Cats are fun and cuddly
Love is the same
You cuddle with your loved one
And have a good time
A cat may attack
But never leaves too much damage
As in love
You may argue,
But it almost always gets resolved

Korina A

My mom is a sundae cone
Sweet like sugar
But watch out
Cold as ice
She’s also a tiger
Protecting its prey
From the world
And persons that might
Harm her
Or her family
And a giraffe
Watching over us

Jesse H

I saw you cry
A rain of tears
You did not stop
And caused the thunder
As I wondered what made you cry
I looked at you,
A beautiful angel
You looked at me
A shaggy bum
I asked you to please stop
Yet you couldn’t
You merely cried
You said
“My life is ruined,
I can only cry”
I answered
“Please a cup of coffee
would be just fine”
you looked at me
I looked at you
Your tears vanished
The sun came out
And then I knew
You were the one

Angelica R

Every day while I’m at school
It seems as if time is going
As slow as a turtle
I wait and wait
Tick tock
There goes the bell
I race out of the school
As if I were a cheetah
I get home
I sit on the couch
And watch tv
I’m like a couch potato
That never seems to leave
My brothers and sisters
Are arguing and yelling
It sounds as if
They were roaring lions
Then finally dinnertime
I can’t wait
I race to the table for a seat
And sit myself down
I eat and eat like a bear
That hasn’t eaten in days
The final things on my day
I get ready for bed
And then there goes
Another yesterday
Now my day ends
And another tomorrow is waiting

Mrs. Cantu, 6/7

Cierra T

When I wake up
In the morning
I feel like a sleepy bear
Fix my bed
And eat breakfast
Like a cheetah
Really fast
Then go to school
Smart as a German Shepard
Get out of school like a snail
Then eat dinner
Finally the day ends
I feel like a lazy lion
And go to bed
And wait
For another day to come

Nancy G

Hearing my mom roar
At me like a lion

Confused like a donkey
Did I do something wrong?

I’m too lazy like a bear
To hear her

My mom talking to much
Like a parakeet

She won’t stop!!!

Making my face
Like a sad kitty

I am innocent!

Mrs. Bunkowski, 3rd grade


Pills are as small as ants
Scissors cut as sharp as a knife
Blood is cold as a winter day
I am cool as ice
As mad as a lion

Ethan R

I’m dizzy as an out of control, exploding car
I’m silly as a cartoon show on tv
I’m nice as my friends in a few streets in the country
I’m hungry as a homeless person
I’m crazy as a clown

Isaiah W

Smoke is like burned cooking
Snow is like feathers
Anger is like lightening
The clock is like a snail
I run fast like a cheetah
Sweet cream is like juice

Monday, January 28, 2008

Poems about Senses: The Little Mute Boy by Federico Lorca

The students and I discussed the rest of our senses and about how we often take them for granted. I asked the students to write a poem as if they have lost one of their senses. How would they get through this world?

Daniel M
Grade 6

I lost my sight
All day and night
An old man that
Was blind found it
He sees everything
That I would have seen
And now I’m glad
He has it
The old man
Came to thank me
And I said
You’re welcome
But now my sight
Is missing
I feel like
I can’t do nothing
I can’t read my books
Or do all my homework
I think that I might
Go fishing

Juan R
Grade 6

Losing my vision…
Losing my vision
It’s so hard
To see
All I see is
Is black
And blank
Why am I the one
Who cannot see
I cannot see
My family
I cannot see
My friends

Fernando G
Grade 6

one day I was really sick
I couldn’t sniff
I couldn’t feel
I couldn’t even
Feel an eel
I couldn’t talk
I was like a hawk
Stalking its prey.
Slow and silent
I couldn’t tast
The mint
In the toothpaste
I couldn’t see
I was like a bat
With no sight

Carlos A
Grade 7

I lost my vision
I don’t know what to do
I have to count
On my ears to see
But maybe my vision
Went to someone
Who can’t see
Now my vision
Went away to someone
Who really needs it
Now they can see
The world
When I see myself
In my mind
In a dark room
Waiting for something
To happen

Jesse H
Grade 8

Goodbye sight!
I took you for granted
Now I’m blind
But it’s not so bad
Now you have gone
To another blind person
He can now see
The person he loves
Oh, I’m not mad
Now I can hear
Even greater
I have started
To hear nature
It tells me that
It is sad
It’s that people
Are using all her senses

Jasmine W
Grade 8

my sight has gone
and it’s never coming back
my sight has left
was it given to my cat?
I hear it meowing
More than ever
Expect I don’t understand
Where I am going
My cat guides me
Around the house
Cats walk softly
But I hear it very well
I miss seeing the beautiful ocean
And watching TV on the sofa
It’s kind of hard to get around
I wish my sight would just return