National Writing Project

Puny Poetry Meets Its Match

By: Jim Horrell, Gerri Ruckel
Publication: The Quarterly, Vol. 21, No. 4
Date: Fall 1999

Summary: By presenting a series of scaffolded lessons, the authors demonstrate how they lead student from poems with wordplay and no meaning to works of sophisticated self-expression.



Root canal is a simple, painless process compared to cajoling these student to rewrite or revise these pieces. To them, the poem is done and no amount of educated teacher prodding is going to make a difference. We began wondering why we were pushing students to revise. Whatever it was they were trying to say, they said. There is no meaning, no message, nothing expressed here beyond simple wordplay. But what about those times students had real feelings to express and no other poetry voice to use?

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