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.

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

Sniffing Exercise

For this lesson, I brought film canisters of different smells, such as coffee, garlic, cloves, maple syurp, popcorn, and we discussed how scent can evoke memories of people or events immediatley upon smelling it. The students wrote poems based on memories of a scent.

Leslie M
3rd grade

4th of July
All the smell of smoke
The smell of popcorn
Reminds me of when
I went to see a movie
In the theater
The smell of coffee
Reminds me of my mom
Because everyday
At 5 o’clock in the morning
Shem makes coffee for work
The smell of cookies
Reminds me of
The baking of my sister
The smell of the sea
It smells like salt
Honey reminds me
Of bees
And the pancakes
Of my mom and sister
Because they always
Put honey.

Andrea C
3rd grade

garlic reminds me
of my mom
when she puts garlic
on the soft, hot bread
my mom cooks spaghetti
and I eat it with the sauce

Jocelyn B
3rd grade

when I am sleeping
I smell something sweet
That is cookies or bread
I wake up
And that makes me happy
And a little hot
When I eat cookies
And I don’t fall asleep anymore
When I sleep
I fell soft in my bed
When everyone wakes up
And when I’m in my room
It smells like orange flowers
Smell sweet everywhere.

Ethan R
3rd grade

The smell of the coffee
That my dad drinks
Everyday with cream

The smell of popcorn
That sound of popping
And the smell of butter

The smell of oranges
Is like orange juice
Drinking in every cup

The smell of syurp
Is like everyone eating
Pancakes or waffles

The smell of chocolate
Is like my favorite candy

The smell of smoke on machines
Is like it’s working hard when it’s on

The smell of candy
Is like I eat it everyday

Giselle S
3rd grade

When I smell café
It reminds me of my grandpa
When I am sitting with him
Drinking café with milk

When I smell smoke
It reminds me of my grandpa
Smoking outside in a chair

Daniella M
3rd grade

when I smell popcorn
it makes me remember
about someone graved
a knife in the night
and made three holes
in two wheelies

the smell of smoke
remembers me
of my cousins house
on fire
the fire burned
my cousins forehead
and hair

Michael R

the thing that reminds me
of something
is the Downy in my clothes
it reminds me of my mom
when she is washing
it reminds me of her
always washing clothes
and reminds me of my brother
because he’s always clean
and smells like cologne

Kimberly T

what I smell
I smell chocolate
Sweet sweet chocolate
Creamy soft
Crunchy crunchy
I love chocolate
But when I think
Of chocolate
I also think
Of pimples
So I rather
Not eat creamy
Oh well

Dirty Dog Smell
Cierra Torres

6th grade

Dirty dog smell
Is very stinky
And when you don’t
Give them a bath
It smells worse
And reminds me
Of under
My brother’s bed.

Christian E
6 th

when I smell mud
I think of soccer
Because when I
Was on a team
I always got mud
On my shirt
Scoring goals
And falling
And they push me
And I fall on the grass
And get mud on me
Especially when it’s raining
And there was a whole
Bunch of mud
On the grass
So when we won the game
We all threw ourselves
In the mud

Fernando G
6th grade

The smell of hot dog’s
Remind me not of a person
But of a time
Fourth of July
The smell of every good food
And late at dark
The fireworks light
The night
Watch out dad!
It may still work!
If you go closer
You might not
Go to work.
My dad tries to stop
But instead he hops
Over the fireworks
He’s safe
This is why hot dogs
Remind me about
The 4th of July

Erika H
8th grade

coffee reminds me
of Sunday mornings
the family around
the table. Talking
without arguing
and calm
is how we are

Raquel S

That hand sanatizer
So strong
It reminds me
Of my uncle
Smells so strong
Smells so dirty
Smells like a bum
I guess I don’t like
The smell of
So sweet
So calm
Reminds me of
This lady
Always pinched
My cheeks I
Always got
Mad until one
Day she left
I wish she were

Jorge G

when I smell coffee
I remember the morning
In the school
In the computer class
Library room
It smells like coffee
In the hall
And also in the room

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Poems about strange behavior: Les Etiquettes Jaunes by Frank O'Hara

Things in nature often have behavior that is strange or upsetting to humans. Bees make sweet honey, then turn and sting us! The students chose something that seemed like odd behavior and wondered in their poetry why it behaved the way it does.

Aileen J
Grade 3

Oh! Kitty
Why do you pee on my carpet
You are so cute
You are so small
And you run
So slow
Why don’t you
Have a family?
Live with me please!

Grade 3

Black widow spider
Why do you kill your husband
When you can live with your husband?
What is the deal with your web?
What happens with your prey
When you kill them?

Daniela M
Grade 3

Oh snow
Why did you
Have to melt?

What the heck
Who needs you
I want you

To turn like
Ice because
Everyone needs ice

Cashmere G
Grade 3

I look at a goldfish
And I ask it
How can you stay
There all day
You look weird
When you smack
Your lips together
Some people
Get sick of you
But I don’t
And how can you
Stay underwater
If I stayed
For a long time
I think I would
Probably die
Just being
Under that water
All day everyday

What humans could do with things!
By Andrea Z
Grade 3

I picked up a bird
Yesterday in the grass
It was blue
Bird! Why did you fall on the grass
How can your mom not care?
Hey! Where’s your family?
If your dad comes
What did you do?
That’s such a thing!
Are you crazy?
I said
I’m not.
I’m just happy

Veronica M
Grade 3

Cloud Cloud
Why do sometimes
You cry?
Maybe I know
It’s because you have
To water the plants
And everything else
When you’re done
Of crying
A pretty rainbow
Starts to appear
In the big blue sky
And when I go outside
The flowers start to grow
The grass is wet
And everything else
It starts to rain
I go inside
And I watch you cry
But I never guess
Why you cry
Just don’t cry
Be happy evertime

Ruth C
Grade 6

Today the snow is ice
An the little snow coming
Down are in the floor
Oh! How you melt from the floor
So fast?
From the day through the night
Little snow
Why are you white
Instead of blue
Or red?
You act so crazy!
But thank you
For making my sister happy

Garbage Eater
By Tony V
Grade 6

I see you at night
You eat my garbage
Does it taste good?
You have a family
But they’re really hairy
People describe you
As sly, sneaky
You are the
Raccoon thief

Michael R
Grade 6

Bee biting me
Why do you bite me
If you are going to die?
I don’t get it
The be wants to take care
Of bee honey
That’s why they do that
They don’t know
They are going to die
If they bite someone
Why bite when it
Doesn’t hurt a lot
You are going to get killed
If you bite us
They buzz a lot
I hate bees
It’s probably the honey
That affects them
Because they are hyper
Too much sugar

Alondra F
Grade 6

Why do seasons change?
They are so neurotic
From winter to spring
From spring to summer
To autumn
So on
Like every day
Every season
Like a gloomy day
To a sunny day
Like a rainy day
To a autumn day
Why are days
And seasons
I wish a day
Was the same
As another day
No more gloomy days
Or autumn days
Even winter days
Just summer days
To repeat a birth
Or a B-day
Just one season
For each year

Andrea B
Grade 6

Piggy, why do you have
A tickey tail
That goes round
And round
Til it stops
Why are you pink
Why do I eat you
Why do you taste so good
Why do you smell
Why, when you have
Like, 7 babies
Some are not even pink
Why, why piggy, why?

Carlos A
Grade 7

Why do dogs
Seem so cute
But when they bite
They are not
Dogs seem so harmless
But why do dogs fight
Why do dogs
Lick themselves
In front of people
Don’t they feel embarrassed?
Why don’t dogs laugh?

Kimberly T
Grade 7

Oh my god
Dear dog
You seem so nice
And sweet
But when you are mean
You change
Your eyes turn wider
You mouth starts opening
Your teeth show
Why dog?
Just because you
See a cat
It won’t do no harm
It’s just an innocent cat
Don’t harm it
Dog, please, dog
Don’t harm it
Thank you for hearing me

Angelica R
Grade 8

Why are humans against
Mother Nature?
They are against nature and they
Use their products
Why do people pollute?
Because they don’t care about
Mother Nature
Why do people start wildfires?
Because they don’t care what happens
To the animals habitat
Why do we live in a horribly polluted place
Where people through their garbage
In the ground and the oceans?
Because people just think it’s one
Piece of trash
But later it turns out
To be global warming
Why are humans against
Mother Nature?

Marcelino P
Grade 8

How do butterflies fly?
Little butterfly
How do you fly?
I sat down
In the green grass
For a while
And it came back
I asked it
How do you elevate?
She said
My wings help me elevate
Are you scared of birds?
Yes! They might eat me!

Jasmine W
Grade 8

I walked outside and
Layed in the snow
This is crazy, but
I have to know

Why are you
When the sun come out
Where do you go?
Why do you come
Back after the summer
Why do you turn
Into ice and make
Me tumble?

Then the snow answered back

I don’t try to
Make you cold
On purpose
That’s why
You have the summer
The soil is my home
I go when it’s time to go
I melt but the air
Freezes me to ice
I don’t want to hurt anybody

I have the answers
That I need, so please
Come back every season

Poems about Dreams: Fantasy by Gwendolyn Bennett

Dreams often represent our fears and desires summoned from our subconscious. They are often strange and beautiful and sometimes frightening. They have been a vehicle not only for poetry, but for many artists for centuries.

Ivan A
Grade 3

I had a dream
That my sister went
To a hypnosis store
She saw a clock
That moves side to side
They look small
I was scared
I asked me sister
If we can leave
She said my mom
Gave her money
To buy the clock
I told my mom NO
But she opened
The cashier got angry
So he hypnotized my sister
To steal something
Then I woke up

Veronica M
Grade 3

In one dream I had
It was my birthday
I was 9 now
But the other day
I woke and
It was my birthday
But this time
I was 6
I said “the time
Is going backwards”
But no one believed me
The other day
I was 1
I was just a baby
It was weird
I said “next time
I won’t exist!”
I was worried
I woke up
And I was a lot better

Grade 3

One time I had a dream
That a zombie
Was taking a shower
In my bathroom
So I had to hurry up
And put new toilet paper on

Ethan R
Grade 3

I had a dream
When I was climbing
The tallest tower of all
I jumped down
And I used the
Fizzy Lifting Drink
To float myself
All the way into the sky
And I steer myself in the sky

Nancy G
Grade 6

Walking on the lonely street
I’m alone in the world
No one there to find me
Hear a voice crying on the floor
I talk to a girl who was crying
She is very nice and kind
She understands me so much
Is this really happining?
I open my eyes
She’s gone
It’s over that fast.

Fabian J
Grade 6

It feels
So real
I get scared
I just want to run
Leave the dark
And go to the sun
I’ll burn bark
To stay warm
To form
Cannibals eating
But they are feeding
On a friend
Till he’s at the end
You feel pain
Then you gain
Another fear
But then you hear
A loud screech
But it’s just out of reach
A guy wearing heels
In a deal
Of poker
Whether fun
But when you’re done
You feel a hard gun
Until you get up
You feel water on your face
And an empty cup
Right in front.

Mirella R
Grade 6

Once in my world of dreams
I saw a great big light
The light was coming from the building
As I got closer
There was smoke all around
As I heard the crying of infants
I quickly went inside
When I was inside the wood was falling apart
I found the infants
The door to get out was blocked
As the building started to fall apart
An alarm went off
I stood up in bed
Wondering what had happened
To the infants and me

Cierra T
Grade 6

I went into my dreams
Dark and night
Where it’s haunting
With fear and fright
I see the shadows
On the wall
Until I take a dark fall
My mother tells me
To wake up
Until the day
I sleep walk

Alondra G
Grade 7

I was jumping
On a mountain
Jump jump
Suddenly I fell down
Down down
Feeling the air on my face
Face face
Suddenly I broke my spine
Spine spine
Screaming help
Help help
Then closing my eyes
Eyes eyes
And looking at the bright
Bright light
Saying goodbye
Bye bye

Fernando G
Grade 7

A dream expresses me
One night it could be scary
You were probably chased
By something hairy
Another night you could be happy
You could have fun
But once you realize it
You are done
Another night you could be sad
You might be sad at your dad
You try to remember why
You are sad
The you finally remember
Your dad didn’t let you camp

Marcelino P
Grade 8

I was sitting on my front porch
Suddenly this big monster
Came and took me to space
He let me go
I was scared
I was flying in the dark
It felt crazy
I was flipping in space
No gravity
Then it felt good flying
Until Superman came
And saved me
Then I woke up a little bit scared
I went to the bathroom
Then I came back to bed
And my dream was finished
By me thanking Superman

Lance P
Grade 8

I fall off a mountain
Into the sky
I swim laps
Around Dean’s chocolate milk
I can play basketball
With the moon
Shoot pool
With the stars
Run laps
Around the sun
And sit on a cloud
To take a rest

Jesse H
Grade 8

You were dead
I was not
How did it happen?
I forgot
You were laughing
Having fun
Then he came out
With a gun
I went between you’s
To help out
He shot me
But it got you
How did it happen?
Did I vanish?
Or did I only see
How young you were
How old was I
I missed you
Oh how I cried
Then I saw you alive
Happy I was
Then I awoke
And you were gone

Alexis C
Grade 8

I was in a huge cornfield
And it was midnight
And I was walking
Through the corn
All of the sudden
I saw a man with a torch
And I got so scared
That I died
And then I saw myself
On the field
Laying there
And I was watching myself
From the sky
So I thought
That was pretty weird

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Exquisite Corpses

I used the Surrealist idea of the exquisite corpse game as a collaboration exercise and to show them that in poetry, even nonsense is allowed. The basic game is for one person to write a sentence on the top of the page and pass it to the next. The second person wrote the OPPOSITE of the first persons sentence. The second person folded the paper so the third person could only see what the second wrote and write the opposite of that sentence. Person three folded the paper so the next could only see what the third wrote and passed it to four and so on. Some interesting and wonderful things developed!

Grade 3

Cashmere, Alize and Luis

The monkey is small
the monkey is famous
the banana isn't famous, he is poor
The poor banana is homeless
The banana isn't homeless

Grade 6 and 7

Jose, Mario, Carlos, Bianca, Cierra

The dog was running in the park
The cat was not walking in the park
The horse was walking in the park
A horse was running in the big park
A dog was running outside

Tony, Silverio, Alondra, Ruth, Jessica

The small cat ran
The dumb dog ran
The smart cat sleeps
The big, horrific dog woke up
The small boy went to sleep

Grade 8

Lance, Jesse, Jorge, Jovany

The lion was so hungry it ate itself
The cat was not hungry cuz it ate the mouse
The dog is hungry cuz it did not eat the food
The Yorki is full of dog food
The pitbull was full of turkey meat

The big black bike fell off a cliff
The small white tricycle didn't fall off a cliff
the giant gray unicycle almost fell off the bridge
The small white motorcycle jumped a house
The big gray truck crashed the house

Marcelino, Ricardo, Alexis, Miguel, Angelina

The mean dog bit the old man
The ugly teacher jumped over the blue rock
The pretty teacher walked under the orange rock
The rock walked over the teacher
The teacher walked on the rock