*Pardon the typos.
Blogging from the floor of a preofessional development workshop where I’m “teaching” over 100 Miami Dade County Public School Teachers how to lead and execute creative writing workshops in their classes on behalf of Piano Slam/Dranoff Foundation at the Arscht Center. Teachers are amazing people. I wish stduents could see the behind the scenes that reveal the creativity and compassion of this profession.
Piano Slam Daily Activities – Neil de la Flor, MFA
Schedule of Activities:
Exquisite (Corpse) Sonnets Collaborative Writing – (Theme: migration and/or music)
Participants will create collaborative poems using this surrealist game. This writing game involves 2 or more people. The beauty of this game is that you can add ‘rules’. For Piano Slam, I’d suggest limiting the themes to either music and/or migration so that the writers have a theme in mind. For example, “write about your or your family’s experience with migration” or “think about your favorite song or musical genre”. You can get even more specific by asking participants to include specific words with the same consonant or assonant sounds, such as Consort, Continuo, Contralto, Cor anglais, Cornet. You may even impose iambic pentameter to constrict and force musicality into the writing: https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/text/sonnet-poetic-form.
1. Note: everyone in the group will start a poem
2. Participants write two lines of text
3. Fold paper just enough to leave the last line exposed
4. Exchange poem in clockwise fashion.
5. Repeat steps 2-4 for 7 exchanges.
6. At the end, students open poem, read and assign a title.
7. Needs: sheet of paper and pen. (A theme can be applied. Rules can be applied to prompt to direct process.) Share poems. 45 – 60 minuets.
Exquisite Corpse: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exquisite_corpse
Introduction (Migration & Identity): Who Are You?
In this exercise, participants will write about their ‘Migrant Voyage’ and how that voyage shaped their identity. This exercise asks participants to dredge up (or re-imagine) their family history with migration using an extended metaphor, vivid imagery, figurative language and their “native tongues”. Note: This can be a prose poem.
1. Participants will first sit in circle. Group leader ask group members to ‘think about their earliest and/or most vivid memory of their family’s migration story’. Or, an experience in which two worlds collide. See L. Lamar Wilson’s “A Patch of Blue in Tenleytown”. Group leader will model by sharing. Each student will share a brief personal experience that relates to the topic. No more than 5 minutes.
2. Students will then break off and write about their experience for 15 minutes. Students will come back to circle. Each will share the last 3 – 5 lines of their writing. Students will then go back and write & revise for another 15 minutes. Share poems.
Note: this process can take up 2 to 3 classes to fully develop ideas and revise
Rigoberto Gonzalez: https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/things-shine-night
Regie Cabico: https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/mango-poem
45 – 60 minutes.
Personification: A Musical Instrument or Musical Term Will Save….
In this exercise, participants will personify an object, such as a violin, that saves the world from silence. As an added bonus, you can use this exercise to personify other objects, such as microscope, that will save _________. It’s a great way to have students incorporate vocabulary words, musical terms, scientific terms/theories, historical events and even mathematical formulas to stimulate creativity and interest in other fields. Students are given 30 – 45 minutes to craft and mini-epic drama, poem or prose piece in which this object saves something. 45 – 60 minutes.
Ekphrastic Musical Poems/Ekphrastic Visual Poems
*an ekphrastic poem is a vivid description of a scene or, more commonly, a work of art. Through the imaginative act of narrating and reflecting on the “action” of a painting or sculpture, the poet may amplify and expand its meaning. However, in this exercise, we will replace “a work of art” with either “a song” or “a portrait of my family”.
1. Participants will listen to a song (group leader can allow individuals to select their own song or limit choices in another way to serve a particular purpose). For a longer class session or multi-day projects, students may listen to a variety of songs—classical and contemporary—to find the exact inspiration they’re looking for. The same goes for using family photographs.
2. Participants will free write while the song plays and then go back and revise for a final piece.
3. Group leader my ask participants to further complicate the ekphrastic piece by asking them to write their poems in a form, such as a sestina or a Ghazal.
Note: The goal is to capture the moods, feelings and memories that the music or photograph/image conjures up
“Joga” or “Hyperballad” by Bjork during her performance at the Royal Albert Concert Hall. http://youtu.be/tU_Wx8ooRjI
“Ode to Country Music” by Sandra Simonds: https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/ode-country-music
“I Live in Music” by Ntozake Shange https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=F86YBqmcaMU
“Sestina: Altaforte” by Ezra Pound: https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/sestina-altaforte
Share 45 – 60 minutes.
Dinosaurs in the Hood by Danez Smith
Students will write a poem in the style of Danez Smith that subverts a popular film, tv show or pop culture phenomenon, such as pokemon, that places an emphasis on the participants migrant history and their own unique cultural context. Once again, you can ask students to infuse their writing with musical terms to create with the two major themes of the migrant voyage and music.
45 – 60 minutes. Share.
“Dinosaurs in the Hood” by Danez Smith: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/poems/detail/57585 & Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nJwiOTeKDOQ
Science Isn’t Just for Scientists
Participants will comb through scientific texts (or any text you wish to incorporate into this exercise) and “steal language/borrow” words and phrases that they will use to then construct poems that fuse found and original text. *See Tom Phillips.
1. Locate a scientific text: https://www.aps.org/publications/apsnews/200512/history.cfm
2. Ask participants to create a new poem using the language found in the text.
Incredible Bridges: “Translation for Mama” by Richard Blanco
In this final prompt, writers will write a poem in two languages that bridges two cultures. The poem can be written in the point of view of another family member, as a letter to a family member or as a letter to oneself imagining who they’d be if their family had not migrated. Link to Blanco’s poem: https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/translation-mam%C3%A1.
See detailed lesson plan here: https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/lesson/incredible-bridges-translation-mama-richard-blanco