If you've tried putting a writing workshop into your classroom then you've probably turned to Ralph Fletcher's inspiring words already. If you love poetry, then I hope you've long since discovered and shared Ralph Fletcher's fantastic collections.
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I love your newest poetry collection: A Writing Kind of Day. What inspired it?
Thanks for your kind words. One time Shelley Harwayne read my book ORDINARY THINGS and told me: "These are 'steppingstone poems,' Kids will read them and say: 'Hey, I could do this!'" I liked this idea a lot. I wanted to write a collection of stepppingstone poems that kids could imitate and springboard off. I wanted to write the kind of poems that would inspire students to write poems of their own.
“When everyone else sits,
Did you have the image for this first, or the words? What usually comes first?
Sometimes the image comes first; often the words come. In this case it was the idea. This poem was inspired by WHAT IS FOUND THERE, a marvelous book by the poet Adrianne Rich. She
makes the point that at the most important events (births, deaths, marriages, retirements, tragedies) poetry always rises to speak.
Many teachers are intimidated by poetry. What advice can you give them and their young poets?
Hm. Well, I'd say that you don't have to be an expert poetry teacher. You could tell students: "We're going to learn about poetry together." I think kids respect that the teacher is a learner, too.
I'd also suggest you beef up your classroom poetry collection--get 10-15 high quality books or anthologies. You want to go beyond Silverstein and Prelutsky who are marvelous, but give kids a narrow
idea of poetry if that's all they read. Make sure you have some that don't rhyme. Also, check out Georgia Heard's book FOR THE GOOD OF THE EARTH AND THE SUN (Heinemann) and my book POETRY MATTERS: Writing a Poem from the Inside Out (HarperCollins). Have fun with it. Tell your students: "You're going to write some bad poems, and that's okay! They won't all be great."
You take so much inspiration from ordinary moments- how do you notice what’s special that others miss?
I think it was Rilke who said we should look for the poems that grow in the grass under our feet. Yes, I believe that poems are everywhere--it's up to us to find them. I think we can train ourselves to be more alive to the world. When I was 5 years old my mother took me outside to play a game called "Signs of Spring." In mid-March I'd go out with her and I kept my eyes fixed on the ground looking for a worm or spider, a blade of green grass, a fat bud, a snowdrop, anything that might signal the arrival of the spring. My mother died in 2004 but the gift she gave me (watching nature, appreciating little things) still lives on.