Day 13, errrr 15 . . . Thirteen Ways of Looking . . .

For day 15  (it was supposed to be for the 13th day, but that fell on the weekend!) of National Poetry Month, “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” seemed (al)most appropriate.

I’ve always loved this poem and the possibility it has with writing workshop/student imitation.  After reading, students could write their own, “Thirteen ways of looking at . . . “.  They could be great for Writer’s Tea!


Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird by Wallace Stevens

Among twenty snowy mountains,
The only moving thing
Was the eye of the blackbird.

I was of three minds,
Like a tree
In which there are three blackbirds.

The blackbird whirled in the autumn winds.
It was a small part of the pantomime.

A man and a woman
Are one.
A man and a woman and a blackbird
Are one.

I do not know which to prefer,
The beauty of inflections
Or the beauty of innuendoes,
The blackbird whistling
Or just after.

Icicles filled the long window
With barbaric glass.
The shadow of the blackbird
Crossed it, to and fro.
The mood
Traced in the shadow
An indecipherable cause.

O thin men of Haddam,
Why do you imagine golden birds?
Do you not see how the blackbird
Walks around the feet
Of the women about you?

I know noble accents
And lucid, inescapable rhythms;
But I know, too,
That the blackbird is involved
In what I know.

When the blackbird flew out of sight,
It marked the edge
Of one of many circles.

At the sight of blackbirds
Flying in a green light,
Even the bawds of euphony
Would cry out sharply.

He rode over Connecticut
In a glass coach.
Once, a fear pierced him,
In that he mistook
The shadow of his equipage
For blackbirds.

The river is moving.
The blackbird must be flying.

It was evening all afternoon.
It was snowing
And it was going to snow.
The blackbird sat
In the cedar-limbs.


*For lesson plans on Wallace Stevens, click here.


Three Letters from Parents for Days 12, 13, & 14 of NPM

For this Monday, a catch-up from a poetry-less weekend (sorry), with three connected poems — all letters from parents, real or imagined, to their children.  I love putting poems like these side-by-side to discuss their commonalities and their differences.  Your students could add their own “letter” to the mix, modeled after any of the ones they see; they could have a Socratic Seminar discussion on the parent-child relationship; they could analyze the impact of structure, voice, etc. has on a poem’s meaning and effect . . .  lots of possibilities for these three:

Mother to Son by Langston Hughes

Well, son, I’ll tell you:
Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
It’s had tacks in it,
And splinters,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor—
But all the time
I’se been a-climbin’ on,
And reachin’ landin’s,
And turnin’ corners,
And sometimes goin’ in the dark
Where there ain’t been no light.
So boy, don’t you turn back.
Don’t you set down on the steps
’Cause you finds it’s kinder hard.
Don’t you fall now—
For I’se still goin’, honey,
I’se still climbin’,
And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
Source: The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes (Vintage Books, 1994)
If I Should Have a Daughter by Sarah Kay (poem ends at 3:38)
Knock, Knock by Daniel Beaty

This is Just To Say . . . Day 11 of NPM

A little William Carlos . . . sorry, not sorry . . . for your Friday



This Is Just To Say by William Carlos Williams

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold


I love the idea of a poem that we might see on a sticky note (or three) on the refrigerator in our homes. Where else might we find sticky-note messages or apologies throughout our lives?  Might be fun to do a “sticky-note” poem or two with your students as a mini creative writing piece.  This works with Imagist poetry if you’d like to highlight other poets from the Imagist movement. 🙂

Here’s a quick little assignment I did with my students years ago in freshmen English, where they have to write their own “sorry, but not sorry” poem: I’m sorry, but

Here are some additional resources for William Carlos Williams.


Have fun! Happy Friday 🙂


Three Views on America . . . Day 10 of NPM

For Day 10 of National Poetry Month, three views of America: one from Walt Whitman, Claude McKay, and Levi’s “Go Forth” Campaign.

This might be a great way to engage your students in what “America” means . . . or what it meant, and how that meaning has changed (or not) over time. These could easily be Socratic Seminar topics or ideas for inspiration for their own “America” poem.  (This may be especially poignant after the recent school stabbing . . . they could even take the idea and make the title “School”)

It may also be interesting to ask students, with so many poems by the title “America,” why would Levi’s choose Whitman’s?  Why not McKay’s?  Great opportunity to analyze the commercial as text for purpose/audience/context.  Enjoy!

America by Walt Whitman

Centre of equal daughters, equal sons,
All, all alike endear’d, grown, ungrown, young or old,
Strong, ample, fair, enduring, capable, rich,
Perennial with the Earth, with Freedom, Law and Love,
A grand, sane, towering, seated Mother,
Chair’d in the adamant of Time.

The Levi’s commercial that uses Whitman’s poem:

America by Claude McKay

Although she feeds me bread of bitterness,
And sinks into my throat her tiger’s tooth,
Stealing my breath of life, I will confess
I love this cultured hell that tests my youth.
Her vigor flows like tides into my blood,
Giving me strength erect against her hate,
Her bigness sweeps my being like a flood.
Yet, as a rebel fronts a king in state,
I stand within her walls with not a shred
Of terror, malice, not a word of jeer.
Darkly I gaze into the days ahead,
And see her might and granite wonders there,
Beneath the touch of Time’s unerring hand,
Like priceless treasures sinking in the sand.

Yeats’s Wandering Song, Day 8 of NPM

For Day 8 of NPM . . . Marcie’s favorite.  If you have any favorite poems you’d like to share, leave the titles in the comments and we’ll feature them this month!


Song of Wandering Aengus


The Song of Wandering Aengus by William Butler Yeats

I went out to the hazel wood,
Because a fire was in my head,
And cut and peeled a hazel wand,
And hooked a berry to a thread;
And when white moths were on the wing,
And moth-like stars were flickering out,
I dropped the berry in a stream
And caught a little silver trout.


When I had laid it on the floor
I went to blow the fire a-flame,
But something rustled on the floor,
And someone called me by my name:
It had become a glimmering girl
With apple blossom in her hair
Who called me by my name and ran
And faded through the brightening air.


Though I am old with wandering
Through hollow lands and hilly lands,
I will find out where she has gone,
And kiss her lips and take her hands;
And walk among long dappled grass,
And pluck till time and times are done,
The silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun.

Source: The Wind Among the Reeds (1899)

Here’s some related content from
Some lesson plans on Yeats (and other poems).

Happy Tuesday!

And Still . . . We Rise. Day 7 of NPM

Today, at the start of a new week, post final benchmarks, I wanted to give a shout-out to all of my English-teacher colleagues.  It’s been a rough year, but still, we rise:

Still I Rise by Maya Angelou

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.


Her YouTube performance of it:


for laughs  . . . the Chumbawamba version of the sentiment

For the Almost-Birthday, Wordsworth. Day 6 of NPM

Tomorrow would have been William Wordsworth’s 244th Birthday.

Happy Birthday, Billy Wordsworth.

early spring

Lines Written in Early Spring by William Wordsworth

I heard a thousand blended notes,
While in a grove I sate reclined,
In that sweet mood when pleasant thoughts
Bring sad thoughts to the mind.

To her fair works did nature link
The human soul that through me ran;
And much it grieved my heart to think
What man has made of man.

Through primrose tufts, in that sweet bower,
The periwinkle trailed its wreaths;
And ’tis my faith that every flower
Enjoys the air it breathes.

The birds around me hopped and played:
Their thoughts I cannot measure,
But the least motion which they made,
It seemed a thrill of pleasure.

The budding twigs spread out their fan,
To catch the breezy air;
And I must think, do all I can,
That there was pleasure there.

If this belief from heaven be sent,
If such be Nature’s holy plan,
Have I not reason to lament
What man has made of man?


The two writing assignment I think of most for this poem are 1. Students writing their own poems “Lines Written in Early Spring,” and 2. Students lifting the lines “Have I not reason to lament/What man has made of man?” and beginning a poem there.

Some lesson plans and teaching resources for William Wordsworth here.


Saturday Poetry Light, Shel Silverstein on Day 5 of NPM

Whatif by Shel Silverstein
from the book “A Light in the Attic” (1981)

Last night, while I lay thinking here,
some Whatifs crawled inside my ear
and pranced and partied all night long
and sang their same old Whatif song:
Whatif I’m dumb in school?
Whatif they’ve closed the swimming pool?
Whatif I get beat up?
Whatif there’s poison in my cup?
Whatif I start to cry?
Whatif I get sick and die?
Whatif I flunk that test?
Whatif green hair grows on my chest?
Whatif nobody likes me?
Whatif a bolt of lightning strikes me?
Whatif I don’t grow taller?
Whatif my head starts getting smaller?
Whatif the fish won’t bite?
Whatif the wind tears up my kite?
Whatif they start a war?
Whatif my parents get divorced?
Whatif the bus is late?
Whatif my teeth don’t grow in straight?
Whatif I tear my pants?
Whatif I never learn to dance?
Everything seems well, and then
the nighttime Whatifs strike again!


It’s fun and silly, but it could also be entrance into a writer’s notebook entry about the questions we have and/or a model poem.  You could even have each student write a poem and then take a line from each to make a “class poem” that hangs on the wall.

For more of Shel Silverstein’s poems online: click here.

Emily Dickinson & Book Spine Poetry, Day 4 of NPM

There is no Frigate like a Book (1286) by Emily Dickinson

There is no Frigate like a Book
To take us Lands away
Nor any Coursers like a Page
Of prancing Poetry –
This Traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of Toll –
How frugal is the Chariot
That bears the Human Soul –

Since we’re talking about the power of books, check out book spine poetry! Get students into the school, classroom or home library to create book spine poetry, where they arrange books and create poems based on the titles of those books.


“After you
Talk to me
Everything sings
Everything is Illuminated.
Instant Love.”

Here’s two examples from Highland’s book room:

book spine poetry 2 hhs

A tree grows in Brooklyn
for one more day.
A lesson before dying:
heart of darkness and the secret sharer.

book spine poetry hhs

Our Town:
the Catcher in the Rye,
the Kite Runner,
the Soloist,
the Book Thief.
Animal Farm.

Check out more about book spine poetry here and here!

Fearless Poetic Genius, Spoken Word Poet Shane Koyczan. Day 3 of NPM

For today, a spoken word piece by Shane Koyczan, “Instructions for a Bad Day.” This man is fearless and genius and holds a lot of good been-there-felt-that advice for our students:

From here, they could simply react, turn and talk, discuss . . . write their own instruction manual for some part of life.  Anything. 🙂
And as a side-note for poetry month, you and/or your students can also write magnetic poetry online!  Check it out 🙂