Colorado Poets Center E-Words Issue #1

Colorado Poets/High School Classrooms

(Bob King)

This last March, Dr. Beth Franklin, Director of the Language Arts Education Center at the University of Northern Colorado and sponsor of the Colorado Poets Center , and I gave a presentation on the

Sponsored by the Colorado Poets Center
Robert King, Director (

Center at the Colorado Language Arts Society in Colorado Springs

We introduced the website to high school teachers as a resource for learning about poetry and poets. One of the benefits of such a resource is showing Colorado students in classrooms dependent on standard anthologies that there are living and p
racticing poets in Denver, Boulder, and Colorado Springs as well as Yuma, Fruita, and Crested Butte. For this purpose, students could be asked to search the site the way they would an anthology and find a poet or poem they like and share it with each other, or write a response or even a paper.

More directly related to instruction, several techniques were exhibited for high school teachers. One of these was to find poems by Colorado poets that could be used in conjunction with often-anthologized poems and we illustrated how to compare William Stafford’s “Traveling through the Dark” with Art Goodtimes’ “Roadkill coyote,” a poems with similar subjects although varying in technique and theme.

Although there are few ‘formal’ poems in the samples submitted by CPC poets, we enjoyed comparing and contrasting Rosemerry Wahtola-Trommer’s “Sonnet” with other Italian sonnets.

We have often used poems as “models” for writing. We’ve found the use of a poem as a model is often more successful than assigning a topic (“Spring” or “Food”) or a form (“Write a haiku”). A high school or middle-school level teacher can take, for example, Michael Knisely’s “Wind,” in which the wind speaks, and easily construct a prompt to write a poem in which a natural element speaks. Similarly, we showed that Linda Keller’s “Perfect Afternoon” contained description of a place and a time; the assignment then would be to pick a place known to the student and a particular time, describing it in concise language. The use of parallelism in such a poem as Lonnie Hodge’s “Teaching” – where “I want to be…” is successfully repeated with striking images of nature, weather, or a natural object – can also provide a structure for  a student’s own poem.

The teachers in attendance were interested in the existence of the website and practiced writing a few of their own poems along the lines of the above potential lessons. It may be that future issues of E-Words can contain other ideas for teaching poetry to middle and high school students.