Slice 21 of 31: A Book Spine Poem


National Poetry Month is just around the corner, and although I teach and use poetry all year, I do make a fuss about all things poetical in April. This book spine poem really wrote itself as I revisited some of my favorite resources:


Pass the Poetry, Please!

Take Joy

For the Good of the Earth and the Sun

Wondrous Words

Awakening the Heart

Poetry Matters

I’ve written before about using poetry with students (here, here  and here) and I know I’ll be writing about it again. For now, here’s a snippit of the wisdom contained within each of these excellent resources.

9780064460620Originally published in 1972, Lee Bennett Hopkins’ book is a classic resource for sharing and teaching poetry. Here is a comment he shares from poet David McCord:

“Poetry is so many things besides the shiver down the spine.” (p. 7)


Jane Yolen is one of my all-time favorite authors. In Take Joy: A Writers Guide to Loving the Craft (Writers Digest Books, 2006), her wisdom and passion for writing permeate every page.

“…poetry, at it’s most basic, is a short, lyrical response to the world. It is emotion under extreme pressure or recollection in a small space. It is the coal of experience so compressed it becomes a diamond.” (p. 87)


For the Good of the Earth and the Sun: Teaching Poetry (Heinemann, 1989), by Georgia Heard, is filled with practical advice and inspiration. In chapter 5, “Language:  The Poet’s Paint,”  she offers this:

“Sometimes I pretend a word is like a geode: rough and ordinary on the outside, hiding a whole world of sparkling beauty inside. My job as a poet is to crack the words open to find that inner treasure.” (p. 74)


Wondrous Words: Writers and Writing in the Elementary Classroom (NCTE, 1999), by Katie Wood Ray, was a revelation to me. Here were the answers I’d been looking for about how to teach writing. Ray’s thoughts about read aloud confirm what we know in our hearts:

“Our students need to be…fortunate enough to be read to every single day by someone who values wondrous words and knows how to bring the sounds of those words to life in the listening writer’s ears and mind and heart.” (p. 69)


Georgia Heard offers more thoughts about teaching poetry in Awakening the Heart: Exploring Poetry in Elementary and Middle School (Heinemann, 1999).

“One of the most important life lessons that writing and reading poetry can teach our students is to help them reach into their well of feelings–their emotional lives–like no other form of writing can.” (p. xvii)


Ralph Fletcher wrote Poetry Matters: Writing a Poem From the Inside Out (HarperTrophy, 2002) for kids, but it’s one of my favorite books about the craft of poetry. Speaking directly to children, he advises them

“There is poetry everywhere. [Write] What you wonder about. In my book A Writer’s Notebook, I wrote a chapter on ‘fierce wonderings’ and ‘bottomless questions.’ These are the kinds of haunting questions you can live and ponder but never really answer. Not surprisingly, these ‘wonderfull’ questions provide great grist for poems.” (p. 51)

Thank you to Stacey and Ruth at Two Writing Teachers for hosting this Slice of Life Challenge!

10 thoughts on “Slice 21 of 31: A Book Spine Poem

  1. Love your spine poem but also love the resources. There are a couple that I don’t know, although the ones I do know are some of my favorite resources. Thank you Catherine! Also, I have watched Bill Harley now twice–what a great share that was for me!


  2. I think your book spine poem will be my mantra for National Poetry Month. I love the book recommendations too. I have the last three and must look into getting the first three. Looking forward to April!


  3. Did you know that today is also World Poetry Day? What a great poem and what looks like a phenomenal list of professional texts. I’ve read Poetry Matters, and I love it, but I have yet to read the others. I’m definitely going to add these titles to my list. Thanks for the recommendations!


  4. This must be the week for spine poetry! Your is fun! We did spine poems yesterday with my students. I loved the experience!


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