Friday, February 15, 2008

Pairing and Comparing Poems

In my regular “Everyday Poetry” column for Book Links magazine, I wrote about pairing and comparing poetry in the most recent (January, 2008) issue. It’s entitled “Pairing Poems Across Cultures” and here’s a brief excerpt:

Seeking out the poetry of parallel cultures enables children to see firsthand both the sameness and the differences that make the human landscape so dynamic and fascinating. Poets of color are using the language, experiences, and images of their cultures in ways that are fresh and powerful. The special succinctness of poetry is also appealing, and powerful points about prejudice, identity, and cultural conflict can be made in very few words.

Sharing poems in pairs can help children to engage their critical thinking skills by comparing the topics, themes, points of view, or language of the two poems. Selecting poems that reflect cultural details adds an additional layer of meaning and interest. Of course, reading and enjoying the poem for its own sake is the first step. Responding, comparing, and analyzing often follow naturally when children read, hear, and recite poetry together. Repeated readings could incorporate choral reading arrangements and child participation.
Here is one sample poem pairing:

Compare Poems about Poetry
• “Wish” by Linda Sue Park, from Tap Dancing on the Roof; Sijo Poems (Clarion, 2007)
• “A Blank White Page” by Francisco X. Alarcón, from Iguanas in the Snow and Other Winter Poems / Iguanas en la Nieve y Otros Poemas de Invierno (Children’s Book Press, 2001)


by Linda Sue Park

For someone to read a poem
again, and again, and then,

having lifted it from page
to brain-- the easy part--

cradle it on the longer trek
from brain all the way to heart.


“A Blank White Page”
by Francisco X. Alarcón

A blank white page
is a meadow
after a snowfall
that a poem
hopes to cross

Look at how poets have captured the beauty of poetry itself and what a poem can be and do. Newbery Medalist Linda Sue Park explores the Korean poetic form of sijo to describe poetry’s impact, “from brain all the way to heart,” while Francisco X. Alarcón uses images of “a meadow / after a snowfall” to describe the page a poem is written upon. Children can try writing their own “definition” poems modeled on the sijo or free-verse format of these two examples. Next, create a “dictionary” anthology of all of their “defining” poems.

Picture credit:


laurasalas said...

Thanks for sharing this, Sylvia. I love both of these poems as well as your ideas for linking them and using them in the classroom.

Also, I just checked out Poetry Aloud Here--can't wait to read it!

Sylvia Vardell said...

Thanks for your kind words. I always appreciate your input!

Aline Pereira said...

Your blog and books are incredible resources, Sylvia. Thank you for all the information and inspiration you provide. And thanks, in particular, for this great post. The idea of pairing poems across cultures is wonderful, and makes me wonder if you might give us permission to reprint the article on PaperTigers. I think it would be a wonderful addition to our upcoming celebration of Poetry Month (just so you know, we will be featuring interviews with F. Alarcón and Janet Wong.) If that's a possibility, I can contact Laura at BookLinks and get it sorted out. Please send me a note if this is a possibility.

Aline Pereira
Managing Editor,