I always bring poetry books with me to school. In the work of a diverse array of poets, we find inspiration and techniques for brand new poems. Young writers have a lot in common with adult writers like me. We want to figure out ways to make writing fun, even though writing is sometimes slow and puzzling for us. We keep trying to figure out ways to be ourselves in our writing. We try stuff and make discoveries and look for ways to connect. I love reading and writing poetry with children.
Book This Artist
Susan Marie Swanson is a poet and picture book author who has been writing with children and their teachers for more than 25 years. Her work is featured in The Poetry Friday Anthology and The Poetry Friday Anthology for Science, and her poem “Trouble, Fly” has appeared in a choral setting for children’s choir. Her picture books include The First Thing My Mama Told Me, a New York Times Best Illustrated Book and Charlotte Zolotow Honor Book; and The House in the Night, winner of the Minnesota Book Award and the Caldecott Medal.
The materials for writing are so simple! With paper and pencil, children can explore and shape their world in poetry. When I come to school, we explore poetry ideas with activities that involve everyone, brainstorming about the sun or the shoes on our feet. To help children find their way into their own poems, I share work by a diverse array of poets who write for young people—writers like Gary Soto, Nikki Giovanni, and Naomi Shihab Nye. I bring recently-discovered books, as well as tattered volumes whose words I know by heart. This poetry inspires discussion and reflection on such topics as audience, voice, and writing as a practice. Engaging writing concepts like sensory detail, metaphor, and revision, I often invite students to move, chant, and interact with each other, as well as put pencil to paper to write poems of their own.
My writer’s notebook, drafts, and published work help me illustrate the writing process. I bring along my teaching folders, too, full of poems written by children—the most inspiring examples of all.