Writing the Community: Disgruntled Voices


I teach creative writing to first graders once a week. The class I work with is gearing up for a Reader’s Theater project, so I’m trying to integrate drama into my lessons. I started yesterday’s class with an exercise from Nancy Larrick’s Let’s Do a Poem!--an extended version of “If You’re Happy and You Know It” that goes through a range of emotions, from sad to joyous to angry (and, for our purposes—we were doing Shakespeare’s “Double, double, toil and trouble” that day—spooky). We didn’t just clap our hands, we also jumped for joy, shed tears, cast spells, and stamped our feet in indignation. The students really had fun with that last one. 

Which got me thinking—poetry is often described as exultant, elegiac, nostalgic, wistful . . . but who says it can’t also be about letting off steam? Last year’s Writing the Community anthology, Light Comes Down As Glitter, includes poetry about beautiful places, favorite foods and animals, grandparents who have passed on, and the struggles that kids face every day, but it also has a few brilliantly disgruntled poems. Here are three of my favorites: 


Tea Bags

gross like a skunk 1,000,000,000

it smells like a
monster from the dumpster.

-Gabriel G., 5th Grade


Things That Make Me Rage

People lie | and | Dog pee | and | Dog poop | and | People chewing with their mouth open | and | People yelling at me | and | Wi Fi | 2g | and | The movie Frozen songs | and | Game Over in Video Games | and | Door alarm | and | Dog barking | and | Doing chores | and | Geometry Dash | and | Braggers | and | PC viruses | and | Yokai watch | hackers

-Isaiah G., 4th & 5th grade


I’m Tired of Chickens!
after Pablo Neruda 

I’m tired of chickens!

I want to write poems about: 

Taking bike rides in the winter
How people get along
How things are made,
like bricks and buildings
How generosity starts
A car with apples in it
Army vehicles
A monkey riding a horse
Otters swimming
New inventions, 
like a machine that makes you live forever
A banana riding a cow
Playing Pokémon
Writing Dr. Seuss books
A horse riding a monkey and eating pickles
How I hate cheese
Animals in nature
Puppies riding a motorcycle
A monkey that climbs trees
Otters swimming in the peanut butter jar
Wrestling spider monkeys
How pickles and peanut butter can be a person
A banana eating a monkey
A machine so whales don’t ever die, 
& buying robots in disguise! 

-Collaborative poem, Kathleen Edgar’s 1st Grade Class