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, April 5, 2008

Ekphrastic Poetry

For one of our last classes together we looked at four paintings and responded to them by writing poems. This is called writing Ekphrastic Poetry = meaning you respond to another piece of art. We read a poem called, Girl at Sewing Machine by Mary Reder, based on a painting by artist Edward Hopper.

The paintings we looked at: (we suggest you look for them via the internet!)

From the Lake No. 1, 1924
Georgia O'Keeffe

The Blindman's Meal, 1903
Pablo Picasso

Jasper Johns

Frida and Diego Rivera
Frida Kahlo

Our responses in forms of poems.
(Take a look at how well we have mastered line and stanza work!)


Gabriel G.

A blind man touching what he has

to eat. Reminds me of Helen Keller.

Being amazed by the blind man

eating. Why did you draw this picture

he was in the crowd.

Lake of Dreams

Michael E.

This lake is

not an ordinary

lake. It is the

lake of dreams

it has a soft pillow

in the middle of it

that we like to

call a cloud. Rain’s

tear drops startles

the lake. The

lake changed

colors yellow,

blue, green and

red. Now the waves

of silk splashes

upon the streams

for if this lake

will change colors it will always be

the lake of dreams.

Frida the Confusing Girl

Lizbeth C.

Frida likes her friends

she draws them on paintings

she wants to show her culture.

She is very famous.

Her drawing shows how she

feels around Diego Rivera.

It looks like Diego is

a painter like Frida.

Frida might work with Diego.

They are really close friends

they might even be more

than friends at this time.

Is Frida sad, happy or mad

You can barely tell about

her because she is confusing.

Jasper Johns –Periscope

Sebastian O.

I see words, I see letters. I see

a hand. The hand is growing

a word.

From the Lake

Brittany W.

The lake is

a tough storm

howling like a


whispering like

the wind

there is a

ship a

fox a

whale and

a storm

with huge waves

there was a

crash, boom, and

then a storm

the people on

the ship



From the Lake

Ahmad I.

a lake with

a killer whale

and a meteor

about to

fall but

the whale

tires to call

and the skies

shining like

a newborn

sea of beautiful

colors but

not a rainbow

a beautiful

color you cannot

miss and a

bird flying

as the

banana is



he lost his


peal and

a fish


off the sea

as the giant

stays on the



Deanne A.

I love how made dark to light

on the waves and when you look

very close I see a birds head and

storm clouds of night.

why, because

when, now

where, there

how, image

what, river

who, a friend.

Blindmans Meal

Osvaldo R.

I was lonely

no one with me

but the scent of the soup

is with me

I know I am blind

but the scent stays with me.

Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera

Monika B.

Why is the dove pink and holding a ribbon?

Is it because they are married?

Why is he holding many brushes and a plate to

hold his paint? Is it because he will

paint Frida? Why are they standing doing

nothing? Is it because they are being

painted. Why is she wearing a crown?

Is it because she will become a

Queen. What are the words on the

ribbon? Are they vows they

wrote to each other?

From the Lake

Tracy L.

It seems so

colorful like

a rainbow exploded

and turned into

a river by a

mountain. Red, yellow,

all kinds of blue,

green, white, and


The Wave

Annie K.

The colors go in

like a wave,

it makes it so nice

like a person being quiet,

it looks like you can

put a boat right there.

So the colors all blend in.

Sunshine Lake

Ben Groth

It looks like a

lake or

maybe an eel

very colorful

aqua to white

with very bright


Friday, March 21, 2008

Editing versus Revision & Line Breaks & Reading Aloud.

In the month of March we spent time focusing on some of the more technical aspects of poetry. We went over Revision & Editing & practiced line breaks and reading aloud.

Over all the entire fourth grade is getting ready for our Pajama Poetry Party that will be held on Tuesday April 8th. We will be reading a poem apiece that we have written.

Revision is what we do as Poets in order to fully show a reader what it is we are trying to say. We have to remember to use clear images, concrete details and the five senses. (hint: the clothing of the poem)

Editing is what we do when you as a Poet decided where you want a period or a certain word. It's also helpful to realize that editing is about making changes to the poem, not necessarily to the ideas or images. (hint: the bones of the poem)

LINE WORK & STANZA WORK = as a fourth grade class we went over the importance of creating lines versus sentences. We also worked on looking at the difference between a paragraph in a book and a stanza of a poem.
(hint: take a poem and rewrite the poem so it looks like a paragraph. read it in both the original poem format, then read it as a paragraph... you will see and hear a difference!)

Reading Aloud: there are five things we have to remember when reading aloud.
1. Posture
2. Diction
3. Don't be afraid!
4. Read slowly

Friday, February 22, 2008

Ode to ode we sing our songs.

If you were asked to write an Ode you may just need to keep this in mind: put the word Ode in the title, focus on details concerning the subject, and remember to really celebrate what you are writing about!

We spent two weeks going over odes and we also did a lot of work with the breaking of our lines in the poems -

Here are some of our Odes! (ode = song in Greek!)

Ode to a blue sky
Lizbeth C.

The blue sky is like
heaven. It picks
me up from the
ground. It is a bright
blue light with cotton balls.
The blue sky is
like a dream of
my own. I love
the sky because
it tells the
sun to come
out so kids
can play.
The sky
tells the
wind to pick
up leaves.

Ode to my room
Michael E.

My mom bought
me a
bed to
put in my

My room has
a tv
I call it
a robot from
the future

my room has
a PS2 I call
a rectangle

my room now
has a poster
that I call a
piece of paper.

Ode to the letter O
Alliyah L.

Why choose a circle?
You could be swirly,
straight, but why
I’m thinking you
stole it from zero
because a zero is an O
O please change
your shape so
zero can be happy

Ode to a banana split
Ryan V.

A banana split is like a rocking
yellow boat in the sea.
tastes like a creamy ice cream with
peanuts surrounding it.
When you move it, it shakes like
a windy storm in the sea crashing in the

Ode to the computer mouse
Ewelina M.

My dad bought me
a computer
that moves as fast
as a rocketship
when I click it
it squeaks
as a cold car
it sleeps in my
and tickles the computer
the mouse has a long
and you could
it everyday.

Ode to a pair of slime
Allen L.

It sounds like
a really
small piece
of salt
rolling in
the wind
free of some
kind of enemy

Ode to an Exclamation Point!
Mark V.

You can make a exclamation point
how ever you want !!!!
If you want to scream just draw
Can you compare a period
with a exclamation? !!!

Ode to Money
Tim P.

It is very green like grass
And it is numbers like days
It is paper like my notebook
And a rectangle like a ruler
Have president face like an apple
It gets me candy like Hershey

An Ode to Polo (imaginary friend)
Claire D.

when you jump out
when you divorced Pola,
when you meet Ezzy,
when curtain had cancer,
when you moved to earth,
did you,
remember your just
an imaginary friend
of mine
Claire something?
Because you were
having so much fun
like a dog.
But did you remember
me Polo?

Ode to a Rose
Kim T.

A pretty red rose bloomed
in the summer,
as people was careful
with the thorns,
with fear they would bleed,
but one bled and made the
rose’s color,
and winter came and the
rose died.

Ode to colors
Mark K.

There are
many colors.
You could
make any
color with
My favorite
blue. The
color blue
is the
oceans water.

Ode to Bungie
Ryan G.

I have played the first
It was awesome
I love the Ghosts
And the
Halo 2
Is better
Cause of dual weapons
And the new Wraith
miss the old weapons
but neither can
Halo 3

Saturday, February 9, 2008

A poem of Questions

This past week we looked at a poem by Pablo Neruda (which is really a pen name), and discovered that you can write a poem using questions!

The key to this sort of poem is to make sure you are making your questions into images
not just boring questions! Remember: Images include details that the reader can actually see!

Look at some of the questions we came up with!

The Never Answered Questions
Lejla A.

How is a bridge a golden path, guiding
us through the night?

Why if hot water mixes with cold
it becomes a hurricane?

Where does the long dark frightening
path with owls end?

Confusing Questions
Kuba S.

Where on Earth
could Venus hide?

Why does gravity
give you a downhill ride?

Why, if a dog is alarm machine
can you be warned by its bark?

Gabriel G.

Why can’t dogs fly
Why can’t cats die
Why can’t I turn into a navy jet?
O why O why do water fountains fly?

Changed Animals
Brittany W.

Why is the puppy a black and
white kitten?

Why did the coyote turn into a
green snake and start hissing?

Why is the orange fish in a
tree, in a birds nest?

Odysseus M.

Why doesn’t lightening give more
power rather than taking it away?

Can you call people who
blow fire, dragons?

When the Earth spins why doesn’t
it feel like a coin going down a hole?

Rebecca B.

Why can’t they just hang a fan on a
plane to make it take off?

What if a green turtle was just a little
rock with moss on it?

Why can’t a lion be a floating
yellow broom?

Patrick L.

How do turtles grow
shells white in the egg?

Which was the first word
to be spoken by the first person?

Claire D

Why, if the moon fell on the
ground and took away little
kids fears?

Can the pirates find there
own gold and the gold
find the pirates?

Who made the grass green
and the sky blue?

The Animals
Dea P.

Where did the black cat
go on a Halloween night?

Why can’t a cheetah turn
into a race car?

Who painted all the pretty
colored birds?

Silly Questions
Amy A.

Why, is the yellow sunflower the sun?

How did the small airplanes hide
behind a dark cloud?

Who put the blue berry into the soft,
white snow?

Adrian F.

What sand does
not get wet?

Where are fluffy bears
in January?

Maria S.

Why did the aliens red
cat gone to the moon?

Why is my book of sadness
being so happy?

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Images. Images. Images!

For this week we read a poem from Poet, Matthea Harvey.
Her poem was rather strange, and full of vivid images. See for yourself!

Bird Transfer (an excerpt)
by Matthea Harvey

Unfasten the crows & the clouds
come crashing down.

coins hitting the fountain floor.

Center your swan on the pond.

So our lesson this week focused on taking three lines and building three distinct images based on surrealism, sound and direction/actions. We used an image word bank that was provided.

Image word bank:

garden unicorn bathtub parade

nest grapes elevator boat cherry

ice cube cotton worm airplane

kitchen sink planetarium germ yellow

gravy boots wind trains sand

ladder tangerine dirt whale

ambulance mask forest coat

valley wings shadow white

paint umbrella dandelion gray

Please read what we came up with! Enjoy!

Levi D.

A black mask covered the night
sky silently.

My shadow danced with me on
the bright shiny day.

The wind battled the sand as it
swooshed it around.

Mario Z.

The car crashes all the time and
it never gets messy.

It could pass through walls and
its not noisy.

It has music inside of it.

Vincent W.

As the clouds creep the
gray shadow hides.

The wind is silently

Hear the wood cracking
in the forests the earth

How to make a garden and The Forest
Alejandra T.

First you put dirt on the floor.
Then, from the kitchen sink you get
some water splash. Then, let the
garden grow with grapes, cherries,
tangerines, and let them grow like
a forest.
The forest has yellow dandelions,
unicorns, and has lots of wind and
plants and animals.

Sarah L.

The water goes plop plop
as it falls from the sky

the unicorns parade with
a giant umbrella over there heads

unicorns walk through the valley
with a bright yellow rainbow of dandelions

Lissette E.

White paint is like snow falling
for the sky.

The bathtub is like a boat
on the sea sailing.

A whale is like a big fish swimming
in the sea looking for a small fish to eat.

Dirt is splashing chocolate on me.

Claire D.

The gray coat lies on the forest dirt as boots
walk across it.

The unicorn flies around the gardens wings.

And the ambulance paints the wind

Stephanie H.

The wind became a shadow through
the air
so the clock went tick-tock
and the dragonfly flew in
the center through the forest

Timothy S.

The glacier ate the ship.
The flute makes a woo sound.
The comet flew across my head.
Everything is weird we are all flat
is this a dream.

Ciaran G.

The forest turned off its
lights. The rain hit the groundthe forest shook and dried itself.

Filiberto M.

The worm was digging with
a shovel and a hat that has a light
and was digging for a
delicious meal.

Yulissa R.

The white unicorn is eating grapes and
catching yellow germs in a kitchen sink
the parade has musical instruments and
is loud like an ambulance on a rush
to the hospital
I saw the umbrellas shadow and was
playing with a goat in a purple boat.

Images. Images. Images!

For this week we read a poem from Poet, Matthea Harvey.
Her poem was rather strange, and full of vivid images. See for yourself!

Bird Transfer (an excerpt)
by Matthea Harvey

Unfasten the crows & the clouds
come crashing down.

coins hitting the fountain floor.

Center your swan on the pond.

So our lesson this week focused on taking three lines and building three distinct images based on surrealism, sound and direction/actions. We used an image word bank that was provided.

Image word bank:

garden unicorn bathtub parade

nest grapes elevator boat cherry

ice cube cotton worm airplane

kitchen sink planetarium germ yellow

gravy boots wind trains sand

ladder tangerine dirt whale

ambulance mask forest coat

valley wings shadow white

paint umbrella dandelion gray

Please read what we came up with! Enjoy!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Personifcation is just another form of Abstraction.

Symbolism Part 2 took on the shape of: personification.
Here is an example from an old nursery rhyme: "the dish ran away with the spoon."
Why is this an example of personification? Because a spoon and dish are REAL but they can't run, and they certainly can't really be friends! So, by saying they ran away together is giving them a human element. A good way to think about symbolism is by using the
five senses.

So here are some examples of our symbols (we chose last week to represent us) that we had to personify.

Aquiya Aquino

Yellow, red, blue and white are my symbol because
It’s the color of my flag.

The yellow, red, and blue was playing
and white is lonely because no one to
play with white, kick the yellow because
the yellow was mean.

Art and Snakes
Diana Flores

Art is telling people about myself.
Snakes hiss to tell us stay away.

Giselle Segura

The monkey is swinging all over town.
The elephant is going to drop me down.

Anthony Maldonado

My football it could fly because I throw
it around.

Ahmad Ihmud

My favorite thing is my PS2 it is color
black as Ms. Yees black hair
got up and ran and she turned

Jose Perez

My Game Cube doesn’t
like the game so it spits it

Jacob Plucinski

When you look in my eyes you can see
baseballs on the field.

Tasnem Eleraj

The snow is coming down from the
sky little pieces floating flying around
coming to the floor waiting
for somebody to come play
with them.

The Mario Party DS
Armando Salgado

My baby brother
had a Mario Party with Mario Party DS.

Kanowah Kayotawpe

Snowman is walking on a white
He is shivering (brrr).
Then he is standing still

Fabian Lares

The paper was writing on its
self. The paper transformed into
a paper airplane.

Patryk Giza

The tiger told me
to come by him so
he can eat you

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Symbolism: Part 1 out of 3.

Let me keep my mind on what matters, keep my mind on what matters, which is my work, which is mostly standing still and learning to be astonished. -Mary Oliver

Today we went over a few things, including the fact that when you're discussing poetry you should used the words: lines and stanza rather than sentence or paragraph.

But our main focus was on the word: Symbolism

We took the word apart, broke it into just the word Symbol. = something that can stand for or represent something else entirely; and in poetry the symbol often stands for an emotion. You can use a symbol rather than directly say; "i'm sad." For example, the American Flag represents freedom just like a tree represents growth.

We read the poem, Swans by Mary Oliver and realized that the swan represented changes. So, we all chose a symbol that we thought best represented us. We are going to use our symbols to construct a large poem for the next two weeks! You should see what symbols we came up with!

If you want to learn more about symbolism and what it means go here!

Jessica K.

My grandma and mom
like pink.
I was born with
pink all around me.

Julia P.
Red & Cloud

This represents me because I loved this color and
I love eating red fruits. I wish red will always
stay with me forever.

A cloud could represent me because I love
moving with the winds and watching people
go crazy with rush in the sky.

Aaliyah R.

A laptop or computer represents me.
It represents me because I love to
be on the computer.
After school I do my homework and
then stay on the computer for like
5 hours a day.

Elijah T.

Chuck E. Cheese

Lissette E.

I feel sleepy like a bear
in the winter.

Nicolas M.

I am really really tired like
a mole.

Layla A.
Cow & Monkey

A cow is peaceful and calm and a
loveing animal and a kicking one too.
And it’s a symbol of freedom.

Because I’m crazy like a monkey.

Maria T.
The sound Crazy

I am

Francisco B.

A soccer ball
because I am
all ways with them.
the colors decide
me because of the
clothes I wear

Matthew C.

I feel like I can run
around the block I feel like
this because I got a lot of

Margaret T.

I’m like 2 animals
I am a bear when
I’m very angry
And like a cat calm
and peaceful

Natalie G.

It presents me by the beat of it, and the Beaty
Songs, and it enjoys me Because the music is