photo of man writing on a notebookAs you continue to work on your original poem (see last week’s assignment) and prepare to video the presentation, take time to really think about what you want your work to say, how you want it to make your reader feel, and what impressions you want to leave your reader with. Hopefully, you haven’t rushed through it, slapping a few lines together whose rhyme is painfully forced. (If you have, you still have time to correct it!)

Whether you think you’re a poet or not, I want you to try to write something that you are proud of, not because you completed an assignment, but because you produced art. But how will you know that it’s good?

Fair question.

An excellent article on just that question appeared in, and I’ve excerpted some of the “rules” below. (There are no rules, by the way. Just guidelines.)

  1. Read poetry. You can’t write what you don’t know about, and while you may not feel like you have a lot of time, you can browse around on the internet to get a sense of what you like and what you don’t. Go to and survey some of the poems there. Editor Billy Collins selected them with high school students in mind.
  2. Listen to people reading their poetry. Poetry takes on a life of its own when you hear it read aloud. This will also be your assignment for this week – to listen to and analyze what you see and here.
  3. Give yourself permission to make mistakes. The first draft doesn’t have to be perfect. The first sentence doesn’t have to be perfect! Get the idea of your poem down, and then – when you think you’re ready to hand it in, reread and revise it. I mean, it doesn’t have to be perfect, but it needs to be as close as you can get it.
  4. Tell a story. It can be autobiographical, or it can be about someone you know – an aunt, a parent, a neighbor, preacher – anybody. But make sure the story is focused and doesn’t try to cover too much ground.
  5. Express big ideas. Your theme is injustice/oppression, but that covers a lot of ground. As you mull that over in your mind, think about what story you know of is related to a big idea.

The Lesson Video

The Assignment

Write an original essay that compares and contrasts two poems. You may pick two from the video presentations listed below, two from the poems listed on, or you may pick one from both groups.

Read the poems a couple of times, then make a Venn diagram like the illustration below:


Use one circle for each poem. Write down the ways the poems differ from each other, then write their differences.

Essay format:

  • Introduction (hook, thesis, transition)
  • Summary of poem 1 (put the differences here)
  • Summary of poem 2 (put the differences here)
  • A paragraph that discusses similarities
  • Conclusion

Video Presentations

“Invincible” – Carlos Contreras

“Spoken Word Social Media” – Jamelene Devera & Morgan Todd

“Letter to Your Flag” – Royalty

That’s the assignment for this week. Stay well, stay safe, and keep working on those poems! We’ll watch the videos starting next week.


11 Rules for Writing Good Poetry.” Accessed 4/26/2020

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