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The Possibility of Being a Natural Poet

You Are A Poet

I have had several identities throughout my life. There are several things I belong to. However, when I heard that I was a poet, I was surprised. I have never thought of myself as someone who writes poetry. I have never thought of myself in the same company as Edgar Allen Poe or Emily Dickinson. But, from the very first sentence of his book You Are Poetry by Mike Johnson, author Mike Johnson gave me the opportunity to become someone I did not realize I could be. 

Someone Believed in Me

Author Mike Johnson took a risk and decided that I could be something great. He decided I was worthwhile and had something to say even though he had never met me. He gave me a voice and a way to share what mattered to me as he encouraged me to embrace poetry.  

It makes so much sense when I read, “You are right now, at this moment, a poet who is writing something that only you can ever write by being the only you’ll ever be: Something meaningful, authentic, and necessary for people to experience.”

This year I changed my mind about poetry. A few weeks ago, I read a book that altered my mindset. You Are Poetry made me reconsider the idea that I am creative, clever, and can find a way to write what is required. 

Before this year, I used to think that there were people who could naturally write poetry, those that might never really be able to craft amazing stanzas. Possibly with a lot of work, a rather motivated individual might be able to try a few poetic devices, but, ultimately,writing poetry was just one of those things some people just figured out and others did not. 

One of My First Experiences Writing Poetry

I remember writing different kinds of poetry in middle school. I remember learning terms and reading poems that rhymed. One of my first memories of poetry was in college. I was in a creative writing class, and the professor started class by saying, “Okay, you have 10 minutes. I want you to write a 10-line poem to be shared with the class when time’s up”.  

Everyone seemed to pick up his or her pencil and get to work immediately. I remember looking around, wondering how I would begin. Poetry never seemed to come to me naturally so I did what I thought was best.I tried to imitate the little poetry that quickly came to me. I thought about the songs that I knew and figured I could start thinking in terms of music lyrics and change the wording to be mine. As a college student, who had never felt like a natural poet, I was unsure how my poem would stand up against the poems of other university-level ambitions English majors. I didn’t need to have a prize-winning poem. But, I didn’t want to be embarrassed. 

Here’s What Happened

I don’t remember exactly what happened or how I felt reading my poem aloud. However, what I do know is that it worked. Poetry is one of the most inclusive types of writing. My poem was accepted and recognized. My voice was heard. Drawing on the resources surrounding me made it possible to participate in an activity that might have otherwise felt impossible.  

Grateful For a Foundation

When I didn’t know where to begin my poem, I went back to what I had learned before the class. Building a solid foundation for our students is critical. Often we feel like we have to focus on new things and move away from everything we used to do. Fortunately, I had a solid background in language and writing. Helping students build a solid foundation in school offers students the opportunity to be confident and feel good about what they can do. When students don’t know what to do next, they will go back to something they previously mastered. Giving students a foundation gives them a voice and an opportunity to begin. 

When I wasn’t sure what to write, I found the closest thing I knew how to do and did that. There have been several times where I have relied on what I learned to transition me to a new topic. 

We Are Our Work

We carry with us stories, experiences, and ideas that can change the world. Poetry is a way of expressing our voice and sharing our stories. 

In You are Poetry, Mike Johnson says, “Poetry is the art of valuing and truly seeing people. He says that poetry is acknowledging that everyone has a meaningful and valuable story inside of them as much as it is the medium to give value to the story and voice. It is the synthesis of expression and means to decode and prioritize emotional information. It is the mathematics of recognizing that everyone has a meaningful, true story inside of them. 

Poetry gives a Chance to Learn About Ourselves.

Poetry helps us make sense of our past, present, and future.  

A few Of the Activities I have Tried.

One of the things I loved about Mike Johnson’s book, You Are Poetry, is the activities that are ready to be used. I tried several activities on my kids at home, and then was able to utilize multiple activities in my classroom with a few slight modifications to meet a high school audience. 

Fill In Poem (page 65)

Dream Like (Page 71)

Photobomb Poetry (page 75)

What Do We Love (page 95)

Poem in Your Pocket (page 139)

Music Is Poetry (page 152)

Fictional Character Poetry Slam (page 160)

Mr. Rogers Was A Great Slam Poet

Author Mike Johnson explained, “The world needs a sense of worth and will achieve it only by its people feeling that they are worthwhile.” According to Johnson, slam poetry gives to people: a forum and a format to take their truth, engrave it into their voice, and feel their worth knowing that an audience that sees value in hearing it. Mr. Rogers was right: the more each one of us is worth, the more we are all worth together. 

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