A few weeks ago, I was teaching a writing lesson on brainstorming. I was asking the students for ideas of things they could write about, and they came up with a pretty impressive list. One of my students mentioned that they could “poetry smash.” When I asked her to elaborate on this, she mentioned that she would like to take all the poems that they’ve memorized this year and combine them to write a brand new poem. She wanted to use every word.
She began writing that day and took her poems and began playing around with how they were structured. What she ended up forming was actually a found poem. I remember hearing her say, “My hand’s getting tired. These are a lot of lines!” I began thinking that this might be why she stopped short of truly using every word in every poem. I thought this idea was so unique, and I wanted to see what she, and the rest of my class, could come up with, so I ended up typing the poems up and cutting them apart line by line. This ended up removing the handwriting component, and allowing her, and the rest of the class, to create. I broke my class into groups and had them work collaboratively to create a new poem. They were allowed to cut the strips of paper up even more to arrange words.
While ideally, I would have loved my students’ poems to make sense, I realize that the poems they had memorized thus far were all on different topics. Given these limitations, I was impressed to see how my students really tried to make their poems make as much sense as possible. I was excited to see them play around with language and realize that language can be manipulated, and that they can create rules for their writing and poetry–that writing does not always have to be the five paragraph essay or the ABAB poem.
I was impressed by their poems and enjoyed watching my students work collaboratively. While most of my students enjoyed this, a few got particularly frustrated that it didn’t make sense, and decided to first rearrange the lines for each poem and then stack the poems. However, most groups really tried to smash the poems together by having a line from one poem followed by a line or two from a different poem. Even in instances where students used two lines from a poem back-to-back, the majority of the time, they had rearranged the lines. The lines typically did not go in that order in the original poem.
I shared this with my cohort last week, and the feedback that I received was helpful. They suggested in the future finding poems that have a similar theme, such as giving the students several haikus on winter to poetry smash.
Here is the poem that my student, the one who coined the term “poetry smashing,” created with her group. The lines are color coordinated by poem, to highlight how this group “smashed” the poems together. Many of the words for the lines in red are bit originally on the same line. They cut apart the strips I had given them to manipulate the poem even more. I loved how they thought to do this. I hope to do this activity again with poems that have the same theme. I can’t wait to see what new poems my students create as they smash words together!
Happy poetry smashing!