a quote from my favorite author

“The most solid advice, though, for a writer is this, I think: Try to learn to breathe deeply, really to taste food when you eat, and when you sleep, really to sleep. Try as much as possible to be wholly alive, with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell, and when you get angry, get good and angry. Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough.”

-William Saroyan, The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze

Sunday, March 24, 2013


The Slice of Life Challenge is hosted by TWO WRITING TEACHERS

On Friday, my Voices Strong class read an article from the April/May 2007 edition Scholastic WRITING magazine titled “Walking Past Poems” by Steven Frank.  In the article, he describes taking a walk with his five-year-old son and attempting to answer the question, “What is a poem?”

Although he answers in a variety of ways, including creating a poem of the walk they took and sharing it with his son, my favorite lines from the article contain one version of his answer:
“For me, a poem is a hand taking hold of a moment in time, an emotion, or an idea.  Instead of skin and bones, it’s made of words chosen for their meaning and music—words tested, replaced, and tested again until they sing so clearly that the idea, emotion, or moment in time is no longer held by just one person.  It belongs to all.”

As suggested in a sidebar, I assigned my students the task of noticing 10 possibilities for poetry in their lives between class Friday and class tomorrow.  As soon as I had explained the assignment M asked, “If we want to write poems about what we find, instead of just making a list, can we do that?”  (the same M who recently attempted the first seven pages of War and Peace) 

“Yes, M.  You can do that.”

10 Poems I Noticed (just a list—I am not quite as ambitious as M):

1.  the rhythm of running on the path behind the village hall
2.  the surprise of a dusting of snow in the backyard
3.  a face in a crowd of people lighting up just for you
4.  new furniture
5.  an unexpected phone call
6.  a stolen shopping cart
7.  cold weather that holds the hope of spring
8.  a box of books waiting on the front porch
9.  the last page of a story I don’t want to end
10.  house sounds (clock ticking, water softener, thermostat, refrigerator, dog scratching before laying down, heat kicking on)


  1. Love the idea of taking the hand of a moment in time.

  2. Thanks for this idea, Christy-I'm sure it really speaks to young writers like your students, & you've got enough material for lots of poems already. Terrific. I hope you'll share some of the students' poems.

  3. The world is truly alive with possibility, if we train ourselves rigorously to see it...

  4. This sounds like a great activity for poetry writing. I may have to try it.

  5. I look for slices of the ordinary in each day to make that moment step out and speak, but usually it is in the prose format. Occasionally it must be told through a poem. Now I will think more about how the slice is an opportunity for a poem. Thanks for bringing this to the forefront of my mind.