Handout for Students at the Start of the Poetry of Science Unit: What Is Poetry?
Poetry and Paintings - A Lesson on Reading Poetry for Beginners
Poetry can be described or defined in many ways. A good way to put it is “poetry is the art of language.” Another good description of poetry is “the best words in the best order.”
If you compare a poem to a painting, you can say:
the page is the canvas (what the painter paints on)
the words are the paints
the poet is the painter
the reader is the viewer of the painting
When you look at a painting you can notice lots of different things:
the size of the painting
the types of paint used: oil, water color, etc
the colors used in the painting
the brush strokes: thick and bold, delicate and thin
what is in the painting: a portrait, still-life, a scene, something abstract (not anything particular, just colors or shapes)
what the painting is meant to do: show a scene, express an idea, make you think about something in particular
When you read a poem you can notice and ask lots of different things as well. You can think about:
The word choice
Verbs, nouns, adjectives, adverbs
What specific thoughts do the words bring?
Are they abstract words (words that don’t give you a picture)or concrete (words that do give you a picture)?
The sounds of words
o the consonants, like hard “k” or soft “s”
o the vowels, like long vowels (ooo) or short vowels (ah)
o the rhyme or slant rhyme (almost rhyme)
The rhythm of the words
What syllables are emphasized?
What ones are not?
The pattern of the words
o they could be in a formal way, like a haiku or limerick
o they could have a pattern but not in a particular form
o or they could be in free verse with no particular rhyming, rhythm or pattern
How it looks on the page
o Notice how it is different from stories because instead of sentences, it has lines. The lines do not go across the page continuously, but stop and begin below the previous line.
o Does it have long lines or short lines?
o Where are the line breaks (where one line ends and another begins)?
o Where are the stanza breaks?
o Does the poet use capital letters?
o Does he or she use conventional (usual)punctuation?
The meaning of the words: they could
o describe an image
o tell a story
o make a collage of thoughts or scenes
o send a message
o play with words and sounds
Think about some of the writing and literary words you have learned this year and how you can use that knowledge in writing your poem. You have learned about:
Mental imaging – “drawing” a picture with words Using strong verbs – words that describe an action Describing words – using specific, strong adjectives and adverbs
Simile – a comparison of two things not usually compared using “like” or “as.” EXAMPLE: “That sandwich is as big as a house!”