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Can Anyone Write Poetry?

Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

Tracing the word back to its original Greek, “poetry” came from a word meaning to make or create. Poetry usually refers to words in verse, but rhyming is not required to write a poem and, yes, anyone can write poetry!

 Did you know that we have a Poetry Month? Do you know why? Poetry is an art that goes back centuries and both men and women wrote poetry. Having a month for poetry brings attention to an art that is versatile and engaging, although perhaps not as studied and practiced as other arts.

Guess what? This month of April is Poetry Month, so let us write a poem! Some of our most memorable writers in history were poets. Edgar Allen Poe’  “The Raven” is quite memorable indeed. What about reading a short poem by Ogden Nash

Kids usually like these. Once they get the hang of hearing poems, perhaps read a Shakespeare sonnet and see how it is received.

You can also have kids choose a topic on one of their favorite subjects, such as a pet dog or cat, hiking, fishing, or perhaps at the beach, and have them write a poem about it.

Perhaps a favorite game they play or a favorite food they eat? For example, my cat’s name is Nicholas and I call him “Nicky” for short.

This one is for the kids:

I have a cat named Nicky

whose paws are sometimes sticky.

He plays in the days,

and naps where he lays.

So goes my cat named Nicky!

 Remind the kids that poets may write and rewrite many times before they find the words they want. Start simple. Perhaps the funnier the poems, the easier they will be to write.

 After their experimental play with poetry, why not create a team poem or a class poem? Perhaps a poem a day throughout a month, where each kid has a chance to share a poem he or she likes or wrote? Perhaps the subject is “A Summer’s Day.” All kids can relate to that. Have the kids provide words that remind them of a summer’s day. As the kids suggest them, write them on the black or white-board.

After you have brainstormed ideas with them, begin to place them in phrases. They may want some lines to rhyme and not others.

Once kids feel comfortable playing with poetry, they can learn about poetic rhythm. When I was studying poetry, the teacher had us listen to poetry being read. It gave me an entirely different relationship with poetry, as it reminded me of singing. Later in life, I heard an Ovid poem read aloud in Greek, and could hardly believe the beauty of the sounds. Listening to poetry, then, enlivens another sense and brings us closer to the essence of the art of poetry.

Ultimately, poetry is not a “thing;” it is a feeling or a tone; perhaps a tiny story, a lesson, a loss, a joy. Through poetry, we can experience another aspect of our humanness. So don your best poet garb and begin to compose!

Arts enrich us!

Encouraging The Creative Mind: Lessons from Leonardo

Wednesday, January 14th, 2009

It’s tempting to think that our intelligence is measured through our verbal reasoning and mathematical capacities but such a narrow version of intelligence has been thoroughly debunked by contemporary psychology.

Howard Gardner in his work Frames of Mind, believes we have 7 major forms of intelligence.

Here they are, as listed by Michael Gelb, from his work ‘How to think like Leonardo da Vinci’, complete with examples of each intelligence in action:


1. Logical-mathematical
— Stephen Hawkings, Isaac Newton, Marie Curie
2. Verbal-Linguistic — William Shakespeare, Emily Dickinson and Jorge Luis Borges
3. Spatial-Mechanical — Michelangelo, Georgia O’Keefe
4. Musical — Mozart, Ella Fitzgerald
5. Bodily-Kinesthetic – Muhammad Ali, Martha Graham
6. Interpersonal-Social — Nelson Mandela, Queen Elizabeth I
7. Intrapersonal (Self-Knowledge) — Thich Nhat Hanh, Mother Teresa.

Of course, given such a list of intelligences that we possess, intelligence does not/cannot exist solely in your head! Neuro-scientists insist that we are intelligent at our very cellular level, and as a result, the mind-body-spirit separation that occurred over time in history does not serve us well. Moreover, as we get older, our brains are capable of making increasingly more complex new connections if we encourage them to do so. And this is the rub. In order for our intelligences to become developed equally, we must take a holistic approach to their development, only then do we have a chance of becoming, like Leonardo da Vinci, gifted, multi-talented individuals. Renaissance men and women.

Michael Gelb, based on a study of Leonardo and his methods, offers 7 Da Vincian principles to be remembered, developed and applied (across all ages!):

1. Curiosita – a perpetual curiosity and willingness to ask questions, continually learning about the world around you
2. Dimostrazione – the application of knowledge to experience and being willing to learn from mistakes
3. Sensazione – the refinement and development of sensory intelligence, especially sight as a way of enlivening experience
4. Sfumato – to go up in smoke – the willingness to embrace ambiguity, paradox and uncertainty
5. Arte/Scienza – whole brain thinking — balancing science and art, logic and imagination
6. Corporalita – the cultivation of grace, ambidexterity, fitness and poise
7. Connessione – systemic thinking – the ability to recognize and appreciate the interconnectedness of all phenomena.

Renaissance men and women are not restricted to any societal period. Indeed, many people demanding educational reform to create citizens more capable of living and thriving in an interdependent world believe that we need a new form of Renaissance individual for these times. Our current educational systems demand us to specialize, when really, a more general and generous understanding of the holistic nature of our world would serve us better. At the very least, contemporary and future citizens need to be digitally literate as well as globally aware.

In this new year, consider how you can expand your repertoire of intelligences — what would you like to learn this year? what would your kids like to learn? How can you begin to craft a creative mind and life based on Da Vinci’s principles?

With thanks to maven and Dave ‘Coconuts’… for their images!

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