Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Crazy About Dialogue Poems

Don't you love it when the poetic universe sends you something from two different galaxies, and somehow they converge in the same sky?

Well, that happened to me recently. First, I taught a poetry workshop to creative writing students at Chelsea High School. We wrote after Pixar postcards. Here is the one I selected:

Monsters, Inc. concept art by Harley Jessup (Disney/Pixar)
I immediately started thinking about what this little girl might be saying to the monster. I was also thinking about how to use the tools I'd just given the students: include imagination, description, and emotion. Here's what I wrote:

Conversation with the Monster Under the Bed

I think YOU should do it.

       Why me?

Because you're big and blue
and you have horns.

     But you're small
     and pink and have shoes.
     Plus I'm scared.

You're scared? Of what?

     What if they don't like me?

What if they DO?
I don't know yet what these two are planning... do you? I guess I'll find out when I work on the poem some more. I DO like the switcheroo of the girl giving the fearful monster courage...

And then the universe gifted me with a copy of Sylvia Vardell & Janet Wong's latest project PET CRAZY: A Poetry Friday Power Book (illustrations by Franzi Paetzold). (Thank you, Sylvia/Janet/universe!)

This book reminds me of my homeschooling-mom days because it's really a workbook. I would have loved exploring it with my sons... lots of engaging activities and illustrations. Plus, PETS. I mean, what better way to bring kids to poetry than with animals?!

AND lo and behold, Powerpack 9 is called "Time to Talk" and includes, among other things, a dialogue poem prompt and mentor poem by Janet Wong.

Good News!

Me: "Kristy's cat is sick."

     Mom: "That's part of having a pet."

Me: "Is Kristy's cat going to die?"

     Mom: "Let's see what they hear
                  from the vet."

     Phone: Ring! Rringg!!

     Mom: "What did you say?"
                 "That's great! That's crazy!"

Me: "Kristy's cat isn't sick?"
     Mom: "She's just having babies!"

- Janet Wong

Good news, indeed! Wee me would have been delighted by that news... and was, many times, as my mother raised and sold Himalayan cats. Also, one of my most favorite books as a youngster was TOO MANY KITTENS, which I have blogged about before. 

You'll notice Janet labels the speakers in her poem, and I didn't. It's the poet's choice, though younger kids might be confused if you don't label it. Or you can do what I did, which was give a clue in the title. Or maybe you have a completely different idea about how to write a dialogue poem! And who should be talking and what they might be talking about... the point is, you should definitely write one. PET CRAZY even provides a page for you (and students!) to do just that.

And if you need further inspiration, here's one I love by Lilian Moore.

Corn Talk

Listen to a cornstalk
to the autumn wind,

     "Once I was a
     kernel, juicy in
     tight skin.

     Long long ago
     in April
     I sank into new-turned

     In the warm sweet
     dar, I drank

     Stretched by light
     I grew

     prince of the garden
     in fringed tassels,
     in proud summer

     Plump kernels
     fattened on my
     each ear secret,
     mummy-wrapped . . ."

"Corn talk again!"
sighs the wind
in the empty garden.

- Lilian Moore, as seen in Something New Begins: New And Selected Poems (Atheneum, 1982)

Happy writing!


  1. I like each one, but yours really started my imagination, Irene. I don't think I've ever thought about a monster being scared to hide in a dark closet or under a bed. See, I'm already moving into a story, which might be great for you to do! People sometimes are "stuck" in jobs they don't feel comfortable about, right? Pet Crazy is one I still need. The other two have given me so many ideas!

  2. Such great dialogue poems! I've never written one before but you've inspired me to try. Your little girl/monster dialogue with that "switcheroo" is wonderful and I so enjoyed listening to the "cornstalk /whispering /to the autumn wind."


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