To begin my first day of a five session poets in the schools residency I wanted to focus on the roots of writing. I asked the fifth graders to make lists of words they liked. Because words are as common as breath, it’s easy to take them for granted, and forget, that they, like breath, are essential. There is no wrong way to make a word list, and sometimes the word list itself is almost a poem. After gathering our words, we wrote poems celebrating words.
Words are the writer’s paint and paintbrush, both raw material and tool. As Sarah Zemelman writes, “Words are the welcome mat in front of a story’s front door.They say, ‘Come in, come in, the door’s open wide.’”
Playing off their word lists, students' word poems celebrate the textures of words and their radiance. After so many years as a poet in the school I find I can still be surprised that children are so articulate about the mysteries of language, the silence inside words.
Words as sanctuary, words fiery and gooey, hard as stone and soft as feathers, full of sense and nonsense, music and meaning. We know this and forget it over and over. I am the teacher and yet my students remind me of the magic and power of words.
You are in dark.
you fear for dark.
to light the way.
Help you might yell.
Words are kindness.
Words say, “hello”
They help you
Just call for them
Words will help you.
Sun hot as can be
words bring you shade
to cool off on a hot summer day.
Thank you, you say
but words are gone.
They are the way you speak.
Words are like stars going around the moon of emotion.
Words are like a river flowing to inspiration.
Words are like animals roaming freely in the world of poetry.
Leland Quin Finch
Words come and go, as wind
drifts past swaying pine trees.
Words are trees, yet
trees are not words.
Words fill a room, still
a room fills a word.
Words are like emerald green
blades of grass in a vast, open field.
Words are like the bark of the redwood tree.
Words are like a lynx in the night,
silent as can be.
Words are like the ruby red flame
of the fire ablaze in the night sky.
Words are the clouds in the night
drifting through the wind.
Words are like a tired yawning deer running through a meadow.
Words are like a dance through an upbeat song.
Words are the rhythm of the drums played by the heavens.
Just like a young tiger searching for its prey in the jungle.
Crackle! boom! Pop are like word yet sounds.
Words can creep up behind you and attack or feed you warm soup
while you are sick.
Words are reactions, yet, myths, questions, and answers.
Words are W O R D S,
Now sounds, sounds are different, yet the same.
Words are the popping popcorn
that are popping up and falling like rain
The ooze of the goo
is the word of words.
Sticky as fresh pie
Singsong the night sky
The moon is like
sapphires and cheese.
Words of a kitten,
a soft pillow
Poetry was like a dreaded
day, now it is a pool of fun.
Bubbles fly, monkeys sing,
bees buzz, computers bing,
Words are the welcome mat in front of a story’s front door.
They say, “Come in, come in, the door’s open wide.
Come in and see the magic inside."
Words are the silverly light of the moon
seeping in through you like the mist
You hear tinkling bells, the sound soft as fur,
gently rocking the world to sleep.
Words are as hard as the sphinx’s hard stone
coming down to you like a storm.
I sit watching the sky,
as it turns from sapphire to opal,
my light is dying.
Suddenly the words come to mind,
like a tiger racing across the jungle,
my quill races across the page.
My words are my safe haven,
my sanctuary, my words are like
the tiger’s camouflage and only
I can truly understand.
About J. Ruth
Causes J. Ruth Gendler Supports
Poets in the Schools
River of Words
Friends of the Earth
Doctors Withour Borders