Friday, February 6, 2009


Time for a Poetry Break!

Module 1, Poetry Break 2

by Diondra Jordan

If I stood on tiptoe
reached up and sculpted
mountains from clouds
would you laugh out loud?

If I dipped my brush in starlight
painted a ribbon of night
on your windowsill
would you still laugh?

If I drew you adrift
in a pen and ink sea
in a raging storm
would you laugh at me?

If I planted watercolor roses
in your garden
would you laugh then?
Or would you breathe deep
to sample their scent?
I wonder.

Bronx Masquerade, by Nikki Grimes, is an amazing novel about eighteen different teenagers of various ethnicities, each with their own distinctive voices, created by Grimes. She is a powerful, master crafter in writing with imagery and realism. The novel is an excellent demonstration of voice, one of the six traits of writing instruction important to students as they write in preparation for TAKS testing.

As a reading teacher, I would use the poem, “If,” as a teaser before teaching the novel in a literature class, or as librarian, in promoting the novel on its merit alone. The character, Diondra Jordan, is the tallest girl in class - six feet. Her classmates call her The Jolly Green Giant, and she doesn’t play basketball, which is a shock to everyone else. She is an artist, not only with a brush painting a watercolor, but also with words; her poem has actually painted a picture. The poem could be used as a poetry break to introduce a number of extended lessons.

Literature - read the novel and examine imagery, or use the book at the beginning of a poetry unit (and establish Open Mike Friday, which is the backdrop of the book!)
Art - anyone of the verses of the poem, “If,” could be imaginatively depicted in several mediums: sculpting, watercolor, or pen.
Writing - use the book and each character’s poem to discuss voice and how to establish a personal style of writing through word choice
In the library - use the poem as a teaser, book-talk Bronx Masquerade, and then contrast the book to What My Mother Doesn’t Know and What My Girlfriend Doesn’t Know, by Sonya Sones, in regards to poetic styles
Health - use the novel for a study of the human condition during teenage years, discussing culture and shared experiences regardless of ethnicity

Another idea is to post the poem on a poetry blog on the library’s website. When introducing the poetry blog to students, read the poem from the blog to the students. Book talk the book, Bronx Masquerade, discuss the author, Nikki Grimes, and inform the students that the book is available for check out in the library. Ask a student volunteer to read the poem aloud from the blog posting.

For extension, instruct the students to log on to a computer and reply to the blog posting of the poetry and post their personal response to the poem. This activity would serve to teach the students about weblogs and give them an opportunity to participate.

Grimes, Nikki. 2002. Bronx masquerade. NY: Dial Books. 27.

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