Prose is the usual form of writing.  It has complete sentences, paragraphs, capital letters, and punctuation.  When we write poetry, we can often ignore those conventions to produce a special effect.  We are going to take your rough draft essay and turn it into a poem using the revision  strategies of cutting, adding, changing, and rearranging.

What you need:

  1. Your rough draft essay.
  2. A pencil (so you can erase).
  3. At least one or two extra sheets of paper.
What to do:
  1. Count the words in your essay by counting the number of words in one line, counting the number of lines and then multiplying.
  2. Using a pencil, cross out at least half of the words in your essay. Try to remove all the dull, utilitarian words and leave the colorful, descriptive language.  Remember the elements of good writing and keep them:  surprise, comparison, vivid verbs, nouns, sense details, maybe even dialogue.
  3. Make sure the story can still be followed, but don't worry too much about complete sentences...
  4. Now make changes in line length and punctuation.  Rewrite the piece as a poem arranging it on the page as you wish.  Think about pauses and the effect you want to make as you add your own punctuation.
  5. Remember that poems LOOK different than essays:
    1. The lines don't go
      All the way to the end;
      Sometimes there might be
      Or two
      Words on a line
      (for a special effect).
      The lines have a sort of a rhythm.
  6. Rearrange the words if you want.  Also, you may add a few words here and there if you need to complete a thought.
  7. Copy your final poem on to a separate sheet of paper.
  8. Capitalize the first word of each line.
  9. It should be 1/2 the number of words of your original essay.
  10. Final Draft due Friday.


A Sample

Summer of My German Soldier, Bette Green
 If there were not mirrors or mothers, I probably never would  know how ugly I am.  But it was all there, plain as my reflection in the glass.  Skinny bones, skinny face, feet too big, nose too long. In the mirror I could also see my motherís profile:  a high cool forehead and a slender nose that stopped where a nice nose ought  to.  A lot like Sharonís.  And there were lofty cheekbones that gave my motherís face form, symmetry, and on occasion great beauty. Sometimes I think God lavished so much beauty on her outsides that when he got around to her insides there just wasnít much of anything left over.
(112 words)


It was all there
plain as my reflection in the glass.
Skinny bones,
skinny face,
feet too big, nose too long.
Motherís profile:
high cool forehead,
slender nose,
lofty cheekbones,
form, symmetry,
on occasion great beauty.
God lavished so much beauty on her outsides,
there wasnít much of anything inside.
(50 words)