Shelter in Poetry Lesson 1 with Iris Jamahl Dunkle, Poet Laureate Emerita

Shelter in Poetry

Poetry Lesson by Iris Jamahl Dunkle

Sonoma County Poet Laureate Emerita

Green Rolling Hills

By Mari Sow

8th Grade, Willowside

I will arise and go now and go to my grandparents’ house in the green rolling hills,

Where my childhood will forever come back to me,

Where the black, white, and brown cows graze all around

Where the scent of freshly bloomed lilac wafts in the air,

Where the ancient twisted and tangled oak tree sits,

slowly but surely returning to the ground

Where the birds are always singing a softly spoken melody,

Where my heart always feels full and I am exempt from the world’s problems.

Lesson by Iris

So one of the things that Poets do is they harness sound to create meaning. So the word “Rock” and the word “Stone” have almost the exact same dictionary definition, but when we say the word rock—and I want you to say it really loud: ROCK!—it sounds different than when we say the word stone. Rock feels hard and jagged, while stone feels smooth and soft.

The Lake Isle of Innisfree

WB Yeats

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,

And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;

Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee,

And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,

Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;

There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,

And evening full of the linnet’s wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day

I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;

While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,

I hear it in the deep heart’s core.

So now what I’d like you to do, is to think of a place that’s special to you. I know a lot of us are in our homes right now, and maybe that’s not what you want to write about! Maybe you want to write about a place you wish you could be in, a place you wish you could go to... and I want you to think about it, how does it make you feel when you’re there? So you’ll begin your poem by writing the line “I will arise and go now, and go to” —- and insert the place that is so important to you... 

We right now all right Jack London State historic Park, which for me is my special place, so when I feel like I want to be somewhere I imagine being at this place.

Then, I want you to describe what you see there, I want you to use sensory rich imagery, like — tell me what you see, what you smell sound you hear, right? Right now I see a gray sky I can see moss covered stones, I can smell the bay leaves, I can hear the rain dripping through the redwood branches, right? 

Then, I want you to tell me, what this place means to you in the end, just like Yates said he feels this place in the deep hearts core, it’s part of his identity. Is it something that, no matter where you go, you will always have it with you?

So I hope that you’ll try to write this poem... and that you’ll enjoy writing about a place that we can’t go right now because it’ll be like having that place in your heart.

About My Neck Was Hung

By Iris Jamahl Dunkle

Had we believed in omens, had we known

the way the albatross would stretch over

the cool deep that had seeped into the pools

that kept the thrashing reptiles of our minds sated.

On deck, the bird stood ten, perhaps twelve feet,

wings, a muscular arc. What filled my head

was my cavernous room still being built

at Wolf House in Glen Ellen—how the bird

could have soared between thick knuckled rafters.

How I wanted to kill it, and did. How

I brought it back. Then, months later, startled

awake by Eliza's screams, by the low

moan of loss from Jack, I looked out at

the ridge where are our home had once stood

—I remembered that bird, saw its ghost

fly out from the smoke.





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