Module 4 Challenge: Poetry Writing

By Peter Y. Chou,

Module 4: Challenge— Final Project (Due 11-22-2019)

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California-Poets-In-The-Schools (CPITS)
I've taught in the CPITS Program (1991-1996) teaching
students from 2nd-9th grade to write poetry in the classroom.
Burlingame Public Library has a book of my students' poems.
Actual lessons are included in HyperDocs for Poetry Writing.


Syria 1574, 2 Pound
Jalal al-Din Rumi
(issued 9-25-2005)
Hook Students to Poetry
Since students are adversed to poetry, I'm selecting the 812-year old Persian mystic & whirling dervish, Rumi (1207-1273), best-selling poet in America to engage them (Finacial Tribune, NY Times, and
Washington Post). Coleman Barks' translations of Rumi have sold
over 2 million copies. Here are my Notes to his lecture at Stanford
(5-13-2009). Robert Bly introduced me to Rumi's poetry. I've use Rumi's Quatrain #1246— The minute I heard my first love story / I began searching for you, not knowing / how foolish that was. / True lovers are not out there somewhere, / but in each other all along." in my poetry lesson at Menlo-Atherton High School (February 1995). Students selected a "Valentine Mint" from a bowl in the class. If they didn't like the words on the mint, they could choose any mint on the pink sheet handed out, and use up as many of the other mints on the sheet of paper to write their poem. San Francisco Arts Waterfront Project found my "Valentine Mints Poem" from
A Tree in the Sky: California Poets in the Schools 1995 Statewide Poetry Anthology, and paid me $100 honorarium to cast it in bronze (1999). Travel writer Carole Terwilliger Meyers, invited passerbys at the F-Line Trolley Car "to read to your love while you wait". Students could use these mints to write their own love poem.

Romania 1220, 40 Bani
William Blake (1757-1827)
(issued 5-31-1958)
Explore with an Enlightened Poet
In my essay "Exploring Silicon Valley" (3-21-1996), quoted Blake's visionary poem "Auguries of Innocence" (1803)— "To see a world in a grain of sand / And a heaven in a wild flower, / Hold infinity in the palm of your hand, / And eternity in an hour." Then commented on these lines— "I'm awed by Blake's prophecies, how every atom resembles electron cloud petals of a wildflower, orbiting worlds around a solar nectar, how scientists have transformed pebbles of sand to silicon wafers, bits and bytes in memory microchips opening vast worlds, nanoseconds of knowledge on computer windows at our fingertips. We are indeed fulfilling Blake's vision on the Internet— with infinity in our hand, the World Wide Web linking everybody together in a grain of sand. I'm amazed at Archimedes' reckoning of 1052 sand particles similar to Einstein's atomic mass of the universe, at Leibniz's letter to Tsar Peter the Great, how he was inspired by yin & yang to invent the binary system, 0's & 1's for modern computers, how the I Ching's 64 hexagrams coincide with DNA's 64 genetic codons (book), and DNAS spelled backwards is SAND." Students may use Blake's poem "world, sand, heaven, flower, infinity, hand, eternity, hour"
or Blake's artworks to construct their own visionary poem. Gave students art postcards to write their poems (Sasha's "My Dream").

U.S. 1436, 8 Cents
Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)
(issued 8-28-1971)
Explain & Define Poetry from the Poet of Amherst
Emily Dickinson wrote 1775 poems (Thomas H. Johnson's 1960 Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson), but only ten were published during her lifetime. One of the most powerful definitions of poetry and my favorite may be found in Emily Dickinson's 1870 remark to Thomas Wentworth Higginson (1823-1911): "If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can ever warm me, / I know that is poetry. If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, / I know that is poetry. These are the only ways I know it. Is there any other way?" Stanford University held "A Celebration of the Life & Work of Emily Dickinson" (Jan. 30, Feb. 13, March 12, 2008). In July 1862 Letter to Higginson, Emily wrote "My business is circumference." So her mind is expansive covering everywhere.
I love Emily's Poem 288: "I'm Nobody! Who are you? / Are you— Nobody— Too? / Then there's a pair of us! / Don't tell! they'd advertise— you know!" This shows Emily went beyond her ego, experiencing the Cosmic Self. I've cited Emily in "Pondering About Poetry" (11-11-2003) and Notes. In Letter 618 (1879), Emily writes about the "philosopher's stone"— not to make gold from lead, but "in making others happy", showing her compassion for others. Browse through the first line of Emily's poems, and if one strikes your fancy, respond to Emily with a poem of your own.

U.S. 1250, 5 Cents
Shakespeare (1564-1616)
(issued 8-14-1964)
Apply Shakespeare's insight on poetry
Chinese word for poetry, shih () is composed of yen ():
"word; language" and szu (): "temple, monastery". Hence,
poetry is a "temple of words". Yen is composed of t'ou () "above" (heaven, Tao), erh "two" () (earth, duality),
and k'ou () "mouth" (passage). Shakespeare must have intuited the Chinese ideogram for poetry in A Midsummer Night's Dream, V.i.15-19 (1595): "The poet's eye... doth glance from heaven... the poet's pen turns them to shapes." Denise Levertov had a similar vision: "The poet— when he is writing— is a priest; the poem is a temple; epiphanies and communion takes place within it... Writing the poem is the poet's means of summmoning the divine" (The Poet in the World). Kathleen Raine says that "Poetry is the resonance of the eternal in and through the temporal." Gary Snyder says "Poetry is an expression touching our higher self." If poetry is summoning the divine, resonating with the eternal, and touching our higher self— calling for prayer or contemplation to tap into heavenly realms.
Read Octavio Paz's "Between What I See and What I Say..." (1976) and "Poetry & Prayer" to find your "temple of words" for a poem.

Germany B306, 10+5 Pfennig
Goethe (1749-1832)
(issued 8-15-1949)
Students Sharing their Poems
I've shared my poems with classmates in Dick Maxwell's Poetry Workshops at Foothill College (1987-1997), at Waverley Writers (1988-present), and at Stanford Poetry Workshops with Robert Pinsky (2007), Robert Bly (2008), Mark Doty (2009), Kay Ryan (2010), and Stephen Dobyns (2011). Goethe is my hero & spiritual mentor. I've honored him with these web pages (1, 2). Read how Goethe was inspired by Michelangelo (8-23-1787). Have 10 pages on Goethe at my web site If these stories inspire you, go and launch your poem. Check out these sites— Sarah Baylor's 8 Proven Poetry Websites To Read And Share Your Poems (3-21-2018); All Poetry: world's largest poetry site; Quora: What is the best way to share poetry online?; Hello Poetry; Power Poetry: largest mobile/online teen poetry community; Chuck Guilford's Share: PoetryExpress; Online Writing Community; Deep Underground Poetry: sharing & publishing poems. As an exercise, students may select a letter from the alphabet, and use as many words beginning with the same letter in their poem. I've done this for the letters A, B, C, E, M, O, S, X, Z.
Goethe tells Eckermann to write "poetry of the particular", since "none have experienced exactly the same thing" (Oct. 29, 1823). Here's my poem "Meeting Goethe in Heidelberg" (12-13-2007).

Czechoslovakia 726, 75 Halér
Walt Whitman (1819-1892)
(issued 10-27-1955)
Students reflect on their goals in life
Google Search has 1.88 trillion results on "reflection". Wordsworth in "Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood" (1804), writes in stanza V on Plato's pre-existence idea: "Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting: / The Soul that rises with us, our life's Star, /... But trailing clouds of glory do we come / From God, who is our home". Reflections need not be ruminations on past events and memories. They could also include projections into the future on our dream projects. In the last line of Mary Oliver's poem "Summer Day" (1992), she asks "Tell me, what is it you plan to do / with your one wild and precious life?" Sarah asked me out of the blue this question at ballroom dancing (9-20-2008). My response was this Poem two weeks later (10-4-2008) with Notes (10-6-2008). After students read my Poem & Notes, perhaps they'll make up a bucket list of what they wish to accomplish in life. My poem "Song of the Self" (2-4-2009) and Notes were inspired by Whitman's "Song of Myself" (1855). Students may use Whitman's 1855 version or 1892 version to write their own visionary poem. Richard Bucke regards Whitman as enlightened in his classic book Cosmic Consciousness (1901). Horace Traubel's With Walt Whiman in Camden (1888-1892) contains his conversations with Whitman during last four years of his life. Lots of insights herein for poems.

Mexico C308, 2 Peso
Dante Alighieri (1265-1321)
(issued 8-15-1949)
Extend your horizon for those who finish early
Wonderopolis features "Wonder of the Day" such as "Are All Bubbles Round?". After seeing this site on "Bubbles", students could write a poem why children love to blow bubbles, whether it's from liquid soap or bubble gum. One riddle asked "Nothing on the outside. Nothing on the inside. Light as a feather. Yet ten men can't pick it up." Use these images to write your poem. Astronomy Picture of the Day provides breathtaking photos from NASA's Hubble Space Telescopes. Some photos inspired these poems—
"NGC 7822: Galactic Birth" (12-22-2014) and Notes (3-16-2015); "Celestial Snow Angel" (1-18-2013). Also essay on Ouroboros & the Cosmos. Go to Astronomy Picture of the Day Archive, browse through the titles, & find a photo that inspires you to write poetry.
Robert Browning wrote "A man's reach should exceed his grasp, or what's a heaven for?" ("Andrea del Sarto", line 98). I recall poet John Ciardi's first words in his March 19, 1972 talk on "Dante's Divine Comedy"— "A man is defined by his attention. Dante's attention was God. That's why he experienced Paradise." (Poem).
Visit "Dante Resources on the Internet", compiled for Stanford class on "Dante's Paradiso" (4-8-2001). These pages may offer inspiration for poetry— Cosmic Vision in Paradise, Paradiso VI: Romeo of Villeneuve, Dante & Beatrice, Dante & Marilyn,
Paolo & Francesca, Dante's 55 & The Platonic Lambda Λ. Dante
says "poetry is the bread of angels"— write some to feed them.

Kenneth Koch (1925-2002)
Wishes, Lies, and Dreams
(Random House, 1970)
More Resources for Teaching Poetry Writing

The lessons listed above are from classes I've taught in the CPITS
program. Included also exercises from Stanford University Poetry
Workshops attended (2017-2011). My freshman English Professor
was Kenneth Koch at Columbia University (1959-1960). He taught
children to write poetry in NYC that inspired many other teachers.

Children Books to Write Poetry:
Laura Purdie Salas, "Picture Yourself Writing Poetry" (2012)
Cecilia Minden & Kate Roth, "How to Write a Poem" (2011)
Paul B. Janeczko, "How to Write Poetry" (1999)

Adult Books to Write Poetry:
Kim Addonizio & Dorianne Laux: "The Poet's Companion" (1997)
John Drury: "Creating Poetry" (1991)
Stephen Fry: "The Ode Less Travelled" (2006)

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© Peter Y. Chou,
P.O. Box 390707, Mountain View, CA 94039
email: (11-20-2019)