Many students believe the misconception that good writers are “born,” especially poets. In reality, however, anyone can learn to write a poem. But poems aren’t just born out of nowhere either; rather, they take time, effort and revision. And sometimes the hardest part is just getting started – overcoming that blank page.
This assignment aims to demystify the poetry writing process by showing how students can gradually develop a paragraph of their own ordinary prose into poetry – line by line and word by word – with detailed revision and meaningful incorporation of literary devices. Participating in this process teaches students that quality poetry is defined in part by its complexity; quality poetry is layered, nuanced, subtle, interesting and imaginative, but those layers take time and effort to build. This assignment debunks the idea that poetry just flows to you in one sitting, no rough work or editing required.
“Defeating the Blank Page: What to Write and How to Do It” is a fairly large assignment that will likely require more than one class, depending on how much in-class time you give for the project. It can work as part of a poetry or creative writing unit (it involves an in-class demonstration and then take-home assignment) or also as a major or final writing assignment because it is quite detailed and contains many steps and revisions. A brief rubric tailored to the assignment is included at the end.
For help with understanding the assignment or for help along the way please feel free to contact me and I can offer suggestions regarding how I helped my students with this.
Note: The actual assignment part of this package is 11 pages, just to give teachers a heads-up re: photocopying needs. (The assignment could also be posted on the school’s private website.)
Tip: This assignment also works great for tutoring one-on-one.