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Responding to Poetry
Multicultural, Poetry and Literature for Young Adults

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A poem about a difficult or sensitive subject in children's lives.

Introduction: When I found this poem, it helped to read what a child had to say about the problem in today's world of drugs and peer pressure. It helped me know how a child felt about this problem that so many children face and decide on daily.

Express yourself! 2003. Dallas,Tx: Brown Books Publishing Company. p. 64.

by Julie Rendon, Age 14, J. L. Long Middle School, 8th grade.

He walks down the street happy and carefree.
Sees the park as his destination.

He notices a smell, unusual and strong,
And searches without hesitation.

The funny burning, sweet smell.
What is burning? He can't quite tell.
Oh, it's only Brandon, Rick and Jack.
But what are they doing" Why are they there?

In Rick's hands, a bag of weed.
He trembles from just one stare.

In each one's eyes, a blur of red.
"C'mon man, try it" one of them said.

He's out of breath. What will he say?
Backed into a corner, nowhere to go.

He must give in to prove he's cool.
These are his friends, his pals, his Bro's.

"Naw, man, it's cool. That's not for me.
It's not my thing," he says proudly.

There's Courage in not going along,
You must stand firm, stand tall, stand strong.

Extension: Students in small groups can discuss other things that are difficult or sensitive for them. The group then can write a poem to present to the class about the issue. A web can be done by the class to find other issues then groups or individuals can add poems to the web for each of the issues. Students can start with the web of issues and look for poems that help with each issue.

A free verse or unrhymed poem.

Abeel, Samantha. 1994. Reach for the moon. Duluth, MN: Pfeifer-Hamilton Publishers. ISBN: 1-57025-013-8.

Introduction: I was elated when I received a copy to read of this collection of poems by a child, Samantha Abeel, who is learning disabled. Her writings are absolutely fantastic!


In the sun, my grandmother would sit,
Calico and gingham spread long,
Like a river speckled in fall leaves,
Over her skirt.
Slowly gathering the pieces,
Bringing them all together
She would rock, needle in hand.
"Life is a quilt made of many different
she used to say,
"a fabric
of different goals and dreams,
each with different colors,
different eyes,
different hands,
yet bound together by a single piece of thread."

Extension: Have each student design a square for a quilt that reflects this poem in their own lives. The paper quilt can then be put together and displayed for the school or class.
Have the students discuss and then write about how this poem makes them feel.

A poem written and published by a child.

Express yourself! 2003. Dallas, TX: Brown Books Publishing Group. p. 65.

Introduction: I chose this poem because of the universality of flying kites which can be enjoyed all around the world.

"The Kite Catastrophe"
by Alex Shapiro, Age 13, J. L. Long Middle School, 8th grade

I'm flying a kite and I'm filled with glee
When all of a sudden . . . it hit a tree.
I tugged and I pulled with all of my might
This kite was stuck what a really sad sight!

I was through (that's for sure) so I went away
But I brought a new kite the very next day.
It was zooming for all to admire
When I looked up it was stuck on a wire!

Whenever I look up high in the sky
I see the kites that still gracefully fly.
They seem to stare when they look down at me
One on a wire, and one on a tree!

Extension: Students can make their own kites to fly after reading this poem and try their own hand at flying it. They can draw a picture of what the poem says to them. Students can also find something that they do that has hidden obstacles like the tree and the wire to write about in a poem.

Two poems: Match a classic poem and a contemporary poem that are similar in some way.

Introduction: The following two poems, first the classic and then the contemporary, are common in the theme of the poem.

Stevenson, Burton Egbert. 1915. New York, NY: Holt, Rinehart and Winston Inc. p. 85.

"I Like Little Pussy"
by Jane Taylor

I like little Pussy,
Her coat is so warm:
And if I don't hurt her
She'll do me no harm.
So I'll not pull her tail,
Nor drive her away,
But Pussy and I
Very gently will play;
She shall sit by my side,
And I'll give her some food;
And she'll love me because
I am gentle and good.

I'll pat little Pussy,
And then she will purr,
And thus show her thanks
For my kindness to her;
I'll not pinch her ears,
Nor tread on her paw,
Lest I should provoke her
To use her sharp claw;
I never will vex her,
Nor make her displeased,
For Pussy can't bear
To be worried or teased.

Viorst, Judith. 1981. If i were in charge of the world and other worries. Illus. by Lynne Cherry. New York, NY: Aladdin Paperbacks. ISBN: 0-689-70770-3. p.10.

"My Cat"

My cat isn't stuck up,
Even though
He's the handsomest cat in
The world,
And smart,
And brave,
And climbs the highest trees.
My cat will sit on your lap and
Let you pet him.
He won't mind.
He thinks human beings are
Almost as good
As he is.

Extension: This is a great time to have students draw or write a poem about a pet they have or would like to have, describing the pet and some of its activities and attitudes.
One could also have them draw or write about one wild animal they would like to have for a pet.

An original poem you have written yourself.

McNutt, Elizabeth A. 2003.

Introduction: My first apartment when I moved to Denver to teach, way back in 1968, was so special for marking my entrance into the adult world. It also held all my hopes and dreams and sheltered me from the outside. This home was a basement apartment which holds its own challenges to life.

"The Basement Apartment"

The sun came up
But I couldn't tell.
The grass was green
But I couldn't see.
There were cars going by
But I didn't know.

When it snowed
I had to go down and change.
When it rained
I ran through it laughing.
Where there was chaos
I knew only peace.

My place is security
And warmth and freedom.
My place has music
And song and thoughts.
My place is quiet
And rest and repose.

Now I must go and
The hurry,
The confusion,
The lack of identity,
The stress.

Extension: Sharing something of your own with students can help them realize that it is alright to express yourself in poetry or writing. Students can draw what they plan for their first apartment or home when they join the work force. They can also write a poem describing their own space at home now. This poem will help them understand that a poem doesn't always rhyme.


Abeel, Samantha. 1994. Reach for the moon. Duluth, MN: Pfeifer-Hamilton Publishers. ISBN: 1-57025-013-8.

Begay, Shonto. 1995. Navajo: visions and voices across the mesa. New York, NY: Scholastic Inc. ISBN: 0-590-46153-2.

Bianco, Margery Williams. 1982. The velveteen rabbit. Philadelphia, PA: Running Press. ISBN: 0-89-471153-9.

Dove, Rita. 1999. On the bus with Rosa Parks. New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. ISBN: 0-39-304722-9.

Express yourself! 2003. Dallas,Tx: Brown Books Publishing Company.

Florian, Douglas. 1994. Bing bang boing. New York,NY: Harcourt Brace & Company. ISBN:0-15-233770-9.

_________________ 1999. Winter eyes. New York, NY: Greenwillow Books. ISBN: 0-688-16458-7.

Grover, Eulalie Osgood, ed. 1984. Mother Goose, the original volland edition.Illus. by Frederick Richardson. New York, NY: Random House Value Publishing, Inc. ISBN: 0-517-43619-1.

Hopkins, Lee Bennett. 1995. Been to yesterdays: poem of a life. Honesdale, PA: Boyds Mills Press. ISBN: 1-56-397467-3.

_________________ 1982. Circus! circus!: poems. Illus. by John O'Brien. New York, NY: Knopf. ISBN: 0-394-85342-3.

_________________ 1995. Good rhymes, good times. Illus. by Frane' Lessac. New York, NY: HarperTrophy. ISBN: 0-613-28501-8.

_________________ 1972. Happy birthday to me. Illus. by Wayne Blickenstaff. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster. ISBN: 0-689-83877-8.

_________________ 1974. Hey-how for halloween! Illus. by Janet McCaffery. New York, NY: Harcourt Brace Jovanich. ISBN: 0-152-33900-0.

_________________ Ed. 2002. Home to me: poems across America. Illus. by Stephen Alcorn. New York, NY: Orchard Books. ISBN: 0-439-34096-9.

_________________ 1981. I am the cat: poems. Illus. by Linda Rochester Richards. New York, NY: Harcourt Brace Jovanich. ISBN: 0-152-37987-8.

_________________ 1977. Mama. New York, NY: Knopf. ISBN: 0-394-83525-5.

_________________ 1992. Questions. Illus. by Carolyn Croll. New York, NY: HarperCollins. ISBN: 0-060-22142-6.

_________________1999. Spectacular science. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. ISBN: 0-689-81283-3.

_________________ 1970. The city spreads its wings: poems. Illus. by Moneta Barnett. New York, NY: Franklin Watts. ISBN: 0-531-01942-x.

_________________ 1970. This street's for me!: poems. New York, NY: Crown Publishers. 0-517-50248-8.

_________________ed. 2000. Yummy! eating through a day. Illus. by Rene'e Flower. New York. NY: Simon & Schuster. ISBN: 0-689-81755-x.

Janeczko, Paul B., comp. 2002. Seeing the blue between. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick Press. ISBN: 0-7636-0881-5.

McNutt, Elizabeth A. 2003.

Milne, A. A. 1950. Now we are six. New York: E. P. Dutton & Co., Inc.

Nye, Naomi Shihab. 1992. This same sky. New York, NY: Four Winds Press. ISBN: 0-02-768440-7

Parks, Rosa and James Haskins. 1992. Rosa Parks: my story. New York, NY: Dial Book for Young Readers. ISBN: 0-80-370673-1.

Prelutsky, Jack. 1984. The new kid on the block. New York, NY: Greenwillow books. ISBN: 0-688-02272-3.

Shields, Carol Diggory. 2002. Brain juice: American history fresh squeezed. Illus. by Richard Thompson. Brooklyn, NY: Handprint Books. ISBN: 1-929766-62-9.

Silverstein, Shel. 1996. Falling up. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers. ISBN: 0-06-024803-3.

_____________. 1981. A light in the attic. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers. ISBN: 0-06-025674-5.

______________. 1996. Falling up. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers. ISBN: 0-06-024803-3.

Spelman, Cornelia Maude.2002. When I Feel Scared. Illus. by Kathy Parkinson. (Morton Grove, Illinois: Albert Whitman & Company). ISBN: 0-807-758890-3.

Stavans, Ilan, ed. 2001. Wachale! poetry and prose about growing up Latino in America. Chicago, IL: Cricket Books. ISBN: 0-8126-4750-5.

Stevenson, Burton Egbert. 1915. The home book of verse for young folks. New York, NY: Holt, Rinehart and Winston Inc. ISBN: 1-404-30908-x.

Viorst, Judith. 1981. If i were in charge of the world and other worries. Illus. by Lynne Cherry. New York, NY: Aladdin Paperbacks. ISBN: 0-689-70770-3.

Wong, Janet S. 1999. Behind the wheel: poems about driving. New York, NY: Margaret K. McElderry Books. ISBN: 0-689-82531-5.