Here’s an idea that we got from the book ‘The Inward Ear; Poetry in the Language Classroom’, by Alan Maley and Alan Duff. The purpose of the exercise is not to prove that prose can be turned into poetry but to suggest that poetry can be found in everyday things.
Everyday things: notes
What to do
a)The students work individually. They are given three situations, each of which requires a note to be written. This can be done as a dictation. e.g.
You have to leave home suddenly and have no time to let your neighbour know. Write a note explaining very briefly what you would like him/her to do while you are away (e.g. ‘Please feed the cat/water the plants’ etc.)
You are three hours late for school/meeting/rendezvous. Write a note explaining why.
You have been staying in a friend’s flat and have consumed a very delicious cake which was in the fridge. It is Sunday: you have to leave before he/she returns, and you have no time to replace the cake. Write a note to leave in the fridge.b)The time-minute is four minutes. The students should write a note for at least one of the above situations. (If inspired they may write more.)
c)They now compare notes with at least three other students. While they are doing this, write up the following short poem on the board.
This is just to say
I have eaten
that were in
you were probably
they were delicious
and so cold.
(William Carlos William)
d)In pairs, the students now try to turn one of the notes into a ‘poem’ similar to the one above. No changes must be made to the original wording of their notes. When ready, they exchange ‘note poems’ with another pair.
e)Each group of four is invited to read out its best ‘note poem’.
It is important that the students should write out their notes before seeing the poem, otherwise they will merely imitate the model.