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.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Concrete isn't Murky

PS: Murky means that you can't really see through it, it's dirty!
This week we discussed concrete detail. After reading the Poem, The Artist by Charles Simic we wrote our own, do you remember poems and attempted to include an element of make believe and also several concrete details. Concrete Details are details that are specific and cannot be changed!

We are discovering that poems are really short stories but they should have Concrete Details so the poem can create a clear picture for those who read them. For example: If you read a poem and the horse is white, the horse cannot be green - at least in the poem!

Read some of the poems we wrote this week and see if you can pick out some
Concrete Details

The Amazing Sky
Daniel J.

Do you remember the
car was pink and and i was in it
it was like the sky
the sky was blue, green, red and pink
the color was changing all the time
i was amazed and then something happened
there was a bike and candy falling out of the sky
then I choked because one candy fell in my throat
and then the bike fell on my head.

The Weird Dog
Mario Z.

Do you remember when
my dog past through a
gold car
he turn gold and he
was in asia and it
was night time. I
was waiting for him
to bring me a piece
of ham.

Lejla A.

Do you remember our
black and white cat?
the day he died, the day
we cryed? Every day or
night he’d go outside, play
on the roof, fight with a cat,
He comes inside with a bloody
lip, and the other cat goes walking
like a human,
but limping,
and a pipe in

his mouth.

That Old Man
Zayra U.

Do you remember that old man
he had his clothes dirty and his
shoes were all with dirty and he always
could stream for no reson and was
mad at kinds and tried to make
kids cry. Well we never went to
that store and he had no money
but he was helping the animals cook
breakfast and the bunny had two phones
in his hand. Then a fish was talking
with a little baby I got scared. Then
the two bird were throwing snow at
all the parents.

Evil Car
Samantha S.

Do you remember when my car ran away, at midnight.
It ran away because it didn’t like my mom.
The car was mad so it didn’t start.
The car drove to Poland and was never seen again.
But we bought a new car and the other car
came back.

Summer Time
Aleyah E.

Do you remember when we went to
Lake Charles Louisiana? After lunch
My dad and I went to the pool but we
Always had to wait 30 minutes before
we will jump in. My father I will
stay at least for two hours hoping the blue
dolphins will rescues us! But of course
the purple mermaids would sit there
for 30 minutes and talk! Finally good



Claire D.

Do you remember the time when we had those stupid dresses
and played with our moms makeup
cherry red lipstick and hot pink eyeshadow
we scribbled all over our face.
We got in so much trouble,
but we just danced our way into another world.

Stephanie H.

Do you remember the time when
we went flying across the
beautiful pink sky
and sleeping on the cotton candy cloud
so puffy and soft

Timothy S.

This reminds me of when day
meets night making purple skies
a place where dogs are wide
awake trying to attack me
all I have is chewing gum
I blow it up like a balloon
and fly away then disappear
into those purple skies.

Now I wakeup in the real world
as scared as can be because
my mom got me a little doggie.
But eventually I got used
to him now he doesn’t
even look like a doggie

at least in my dreams.

Ciaran G.

Do you remember the time I crashed my blue ATV
In Wisconsin at the evening. And a airplane nearly hit me.

Kim T.

Do you remember the time I was running
away from my brother screamed with
fright when he threw a big pink
teddy bear in front of me? Alone
at home with my brother, with
bright sunshine shining through the
window, screaming wildly for my
mother, until I collapsed on a
white sofa, fell asleep and had
a dream about a eagle with
a lion’s head, and woke up
screaming again.

The funny old man with the gas tank.
Amy A.

Do you remember a funny old man riding a red
dragon. He came to an old magic jungle
with gas in a tank. He found me inside a
tree trunk. He took me by the hand
and tryed to put me inside the gas tank
but I ran away to my secret place
in the jungle where nobody knows. I
was sleeping there until I was safe.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Writing a poem within a poem?

This week we talked about something called
We learned that in poems you can take a big topic like one of the seven continents and break it down to a smaller topic such as if it is day or night or even if you're busy running from animals in a jungle!

We read the poem, Two Poems and a Half by Frank O'Hara. What was exciting about this poem, is that the entire poem is created using only three main words!!

His words were: Europe, Night and Venice.

What made this poem fun was that we looked at maps of the world to get some ideas about where we could be in our own poems! Come and see where we went!

Vincent W.

I think I need more boats and more people to

We floated down but hikers are faster as they walk

I hear the water splash on me but feel it more

Lizbeth C.

I think we need big hats, boots and gloves.

I am swimming in the cold water but a penguin
doesn’t let me swim.

I am touching the igloo and it freezes my hand
and it turns blue like ice.

Alliyah L.

Where do you get the chopsticks?

This is a really nice place for

Can I see the Great Wall?

Odysseus M.

North America
50 states all around

Amazing animals all day long

Small town with no pigeons anywhere

Matthew K.

I think I need to were shorts.


I jump down the waterfall in a splash.

The Piranhas really hurt.

Allen L.

I think we need more hot chocolate.

I am going to swim in the freezing water.

My body is cold as metal.

Kiana S.

“I think we need to drink” because of the hot warm sun

Ever more warm. “puppy your thirsty”

“Come pup” sleep little puppy

Jennifer J.

I am going to see the elephants
in the morning

The elephants were taking
baths really cool with there

Gabon is so hot that I need
shorts and a lot of water too.
And the cheetahs were running
for there food.

Devin T.

I am in France it is day in France
I am visiting the Paris Eifel tower and I am

having tea with the Queen

Adrian F.

United States
The place of the red, white and

Eat my pancakes and eggs and the
cooled orange juice

Know I am going to Chicago to

Connie P.

West Newbury Massachusetts
I think John Cena will fight the Great Kalie.

I will hear lot of sounds and effects.

I will go back to my hometown
Washington D.C. to meet Batista.

Mark K.

Is very hot
and makes
me sweat


I can’t see
in the narrow
alley dark and
cold that’s all
I feel and

Now I’m
in Cairo
a city in

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Do you know what Metaphysical means?

Metaphysical = magic.
How? Well:

not real + real = magic! That is why!

We read the poem, Fairy Tale by Miroslav Holub, whom was also an Immunologist (a type of doctor, just like William Carlos Williams was a doctor and a poet ((which we learned about two weeks ago!)).

We learned that you can write a poem by writing a simple list. But lists are normally kind of boring. So to make them fun to read, you should add something surprising or impossible or metaphysical to the end!

Here are some of our list poems with unexpected endings!

How to eat a chicken
Daniel M.

do you know How to cook a chicken?
you clean
you cook
you taste
you look
you eat
you clean the table
and finally The chicken is
eaten and dead

The Pet Store
Kuba S.

Today I went to
a pet store,
and saw many creatures I liked
There was a
a cat,
also, a
bird and
a frog.
Then I looked to the right,
and gasped at the sight
of a 322 ft. long whale.

My World
Daniel G.

I will make my own world with
when i finished it flew away
because i did not put air in it and going
to the sun and yelling for help.

Make a Book
Alejandra T.

Pictures you will need
Paper you will need
Covers you will need
Story’s you will need
Imagination you will need
Title you will need
Staplers you will need
And then read it in the
clouds while you are in
the grass.

How to make video game
Sebastian O.

you need a tv and wires.
you need Halo 3 for XBOX360
you need call of Duty 4 Playstation3
you need marvel vs capcom Nintendo 64
you need Ghost rider playstation2
the video games
have a party with
mario party game.

Tyra B.

I built myself
a studio, I used
a recording machine,
instruments,sound proof walls
and a gold tooth for
rockstar wanna be friend

How to build a snowman
Robert C.

He needs lots of snow
He needs a hat
He needs sticks
He needs lots of rocks
He needs a carrot
and a car ran
him over.

Timmy P.

if I made a pinsel box
it will walk it does
not have eyes and
it have sizzers legs
it runs and it
can play football

An Ocean
Albert P.

I need lots of water
I need tons of real fish
I need plants seaweed and more
I need 50 million buckets of salt.
it turned all the
colors of the rainbow.

Ciaran G.

He built himself a robot
I would need wires metal electricity and last a
atomic ray gun. and then he blew up Venus,
Jupiter, mars, and uranus.

Cooking Robot
Victoria R.

i saw some plastic,
i made a cooking robot,
cooks food for people,
i tried him out,
he did great then
he said goodbye and
flied to china.
(never saw him again.)

Baseball Field
Annie K.

If I made a baseball field
I will need…
Then the field went to
Space and grew green hair.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Thanksgiving and all the DETAILS...

Here is an example of the worksheet we used in class! You should try and write your own Thanksgiving detail poem!

Today we had another discussion concerning one of the most essential tools of a Poet: DETAIL. Without detail a poem just wouldn't be a poem! A poet requires the use of all their senses in order to create details that will make the poem better.

We started our conversation by looking at our pencils and applying the five senses to this often looked over and boring writing tool. We discovered that pencils: (and we couldn't say, "looks like a pencil!)

LOOK LIKE: spears SMELL LIKE: wood TASTE LIKE:(if we were to crush them up and put them in a recipe) would be crunchy!
FEEL LIKE: smooth like a blanket SOUND LIKE: clicks

After looking at our pencils we divided up into groups and did some collaboration poems. We learned that a lot of Poets use collaboration when writing poems. Next week we are reading a poem that was written by two poets over a period of several months!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Noise & Image Poems

This week we learned that the poet William Carlos Williams was also a doctor! We also learned that poets use something called repetition in poems to help them create an image. We read the poem Winter by William Carlos Williams and were able to pick out images and detail.

After our writing today we had a really quick review of terms and concepts we've covered the past five weeks and realized that we're all really getting the hang of metaphors, smilies, free verse, rhyming and some special tricks like paranthesis that poets use in poems!

Today we also concentrated on the shape of our poems. As you can see from our examples, we know it's ok to write poems without making a complete sentence and some of our lines only have one or two words!

Here are some of the Noise Image poems we wrote! Enjoy!

Banging by Megan R.

im banging my head
like a clown im
banging my bike to
a pole like a
crazy person
im banging banging banging
all day long like
a ox.

Crashing by Gabriel G.

I was neaigating
In the rain then hit a
sudden reef when none expected
the boat ran in to us crashing
crashing crashing down into the sea.

boats crashing into each other.

Slamming by Joe G.

a skateboard slamming
on the ground with one ollie.
slamming the
rail well
doing a
a body
on the ground.

Noise Image Poem by Sebastion O.

Bang a desk
Bang a drum
Bang your lap
Bang a book
Bang a chair

Making noises.
Listening to the

Zapping by Ahmad I.

Zap zap zap zap goes the clap
Zap zap zap zap goes the map
Snap snap snap snap goes the zap
Yipi Mississippi flipi weres Micki zap
clap flap map they all go zap zap
clackety goes my snappy

The Cereal Box by Odysseus M.

Snap, Crackle, Pop rice crispies.
one snaps,
one crackle
and one Pops.

Why can’t I hear the cereal box?

Stomping Maddness by Velko I.

The kid is
on that ant
with a HEAVY hammer

Clums Pup by Deanne A.

My puppy bumping into the railing stairs
making a swoshing sound like
the wind barking.

The Horrible Crash by Charles M.

My brother
bed the sound is a thud
a bowling ball.

Noise Image Poem by Jihad I.

The bird is falling
mama bird
flew up up up
to it’s nest.

Noise Image Poem by Tracy L.

it’s fourth of July
it’s night time
i burned

My plane ride by Ben G.

When I returned on a plane
I came
on the landing road

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Some poems from November 6, 2007!

Soup Bowl
Osvaldo R.

When I went to Wrigley
Field it was humangus
Like a big soup bowl
(like a bowl full of people)
whith a big spoon that
looks like lights.

The Heat Maker
Patrick L.

I saw a heat maker in
the sky (3 or 4 years old)
it was so hot and yellow I
stared at it and said “I hate
heat maker” now it is not so bright.

My Sister
Monika B.

When I was little
(a little kid in pre-k)
i thought my sister was big
(almost like a giant)
but now big i am
(almost as high)
goodbye smallness

Six Flag
Sarah L.

Six flag so fun
(i don’t like roller coasters, i
throw up)
the rides so much fun
food so tasty
do we have to go now

Rebecca Byrne

Cake is on the table
sitting their watching it
(birthday party)
listening to the song
waiting for it to be over
so we could eat

My Breakfast
Michael J.

i’m eating Strawberry Cheerios (I’d love
to be rich) there are pink cheerios and
white cheerios. i have milk that is warm.

The crazy life
Rebecca E.

a frog is like a painting
(very, very young)
shiny and small
(funny like a circus)
i programmed it to sing
but it just didn’t.

When I got a dog
Patrycja J.

When I was five (i
got a dog. i thought it
was a teddy bear)
i was so happy

now should i name it
smily face (no)
baby (no)
I will name him “My first dog.”

Alliyah L.

when I go to america
(at six years old)
i feel sad
and feeling cold

my hair is the moonlight
at night
being so bright

at america, I feel glad

Narrative Memory Poem
Elizabeth C.

one night I woke up
i heard a banging sound
(wow that was loud)
it was a banging pot that
is like a drum
it was my little sister
she had a pot on her head
banging it
i put her back to bed
and i went back to bed

The Strange Noise
Amy A.

I woke up in the middle of
the night. (There I saw a shadow
that is like a monster.) I heard a
strange noise. It was becoming
louder. I followed it into the
closet doors. I opened it I saw
my dad in there.

Narrative Memory Poem
Ashley M.

I was having lunch
(Man I feel like)
I was in the clouds
When I woke up
this morning!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Our fun with e.e. cummings!

Today we went over a e.e. cummings poem. We began by looking at the painting above in order to discuss the concept we covered last week: DETAIL. We learned in week three how important the element of detail is to the success of a poem.

Afterwards, we looked over the cummings poem, Days of Innocence.

One important tool we learned about today was the use of parenthesis in a poem and how we could use them to show our readers what we are thinking while we are writing our poems! We also learned a new Rhyme Scheme this week: ABAB.

Some wonderful examples of our Narrative Memory poems for Tuesday, Nov 6th will be posted later today! Check back!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Poets we've read thus far!

We have read three poems by three different poets so far! The Poets have been:

Carl Sandburg
Lucille Clifton
Langston Hughes

So far we've learned about metaphor, detail and simile.

Every week there will be three featured poems per class, with an explanation of what we learned in class that day.

Stay tuned!