Friday, April 30, 2010

Apostrophe: Poems of Address

I’ve done a number of posts for Wild Rose Reader about mask poems—which I love to write. My elementary school students enjoyed writing them too. My students also enjoyed writing poems of address in which they’d speak to the sun or moon or a planet…to a tree…or to different kinds of animals.

For the last Poetry Friday of National Poetry Month, I’d thought I’d turn to my attention to apostrophe—or poems of address.

Following is a poem of address that I wrote a couple of years ago for my unpublished collection entitled Docile Fossil—which contains poems about extinct animals, fossils, the La Brea Tar Pits, and dinosaur dung. In How Come? I’m talking to a woolly mammoth in hopes of finding out how the huge prehistoric mammal became extinct.

How Come?

Woolly mammoth,
Prehistoric pachyderm,
What did you in,
You hairy hulk?
A teeny tiny
Deadly germ?
A minuscule bacterium?

Elephant is still extant…
Hippo, rhino, tiny ant,
Kinkajou and caribou…
Gnat and gnu are living, too.

How come YOU
And mastodon
Are D-E-A-D
Dead and gone?

And here’s a poem of address in which I talk to a honeybee:

busying yourself
in a bright pink peony,
save a sip of nectar
for me.

I originally wrote the following poem, Talking to Giraffe, as a point-of-view/mask poem. I kept tinkering with it—but it didn’t work no matter how much I tweaked it. So, this week, I tried rewriting it as a poem of address. I think the poem's more successful with my speaking to the giraffe rather than my speaking in the voice of the giraffe.
Talking to Giraffe
You are taller than tall.
You’re the tallest of all
The creatures that live on the land.

You can nibble the leaves
From the tip-tops of trees.
Don’t you think being tallest is grand?

Why, your head is so high
That it touches the sky.
You can wink at the birds as they go flying by.

You can you nuzzle the clouds,
Drink the first drops of rain.
You must have a great view from your lofty domain.

Do you like being tall…
The tallest of all
The creatures that live on the land?

With your head at that height
The whole world is in sight!
You MUST think being tallest is grand!

Here’s my Things to Do If You Are a Pencil list poem rewritten as a poem of address:

You’re looking sharp
in your slick yellow suit
and your pink top hat!
Get ready to rock and roll and write.
Get into the groove.
Listen for the right rhythm.
Then tap your toes on the tabletop
and dance a poem
across the page.

More Poems of Address
Hey You!: Poems to Skyscrapers, Mosquitoes, and Other Fun Things, selected by Paul B. Janeczko and illustrated by Robert Rayesky, is a wonderful anthology of poems of address.

Browse inside Hey You! and read the following poems of address:
Invocation by George Ella Lyon
A Mote of Dust by X. J. Kennedy
Sneakers by Joan Bransfield Graham

Monday Poetry Stretch - Apostrophe at The Miss Rumphius Effect

Poetry Stretch Results - Apostrophe at The Miss Rumphius Effect

Old Man Ocean by Russell Hoban

Dinosaur Bone by Alice Schertle

Skyscraper by Dennis Lee


At Blue Rose Girls, I have a Favorite Poem Project video of Theodore Roethke's The Sloth. The poem is recited by a fifth grader named Katherine Mechling.
The Poetry Friday Roundup is at Great Kids Books.


Unknown said...

The poems of address are wonderful and so full of possibilities. Although my current schedule and responsibilities as a reading specialist have greatly limited my time with children that can include writing poetry, I am realizing that there surely must be more ways to share all the fun, inspiring and important possibilities. Thanks for the charming reminder and invitation.

Bridget R. Wilson said...

Ooh...another new form for me. Thank you so much for sharing these great poems, Elaine. I think the one about the giraffe is my favorite.

Author Amok said...

I love the pencil poem, Elaine! Bright yellow suit -- what a vision. I do a "magic pencil" prompt with kids using Merwin's "The Unwrittten."

Amy L V said...

Another treasure-trove of resources! It's neat to see your pencil poem take on different lives; your posts help us with our teaching and our writing, so thank you for the month!

Elaine Magliaro said...


I taught second grade for a long time. One year I did a teacher research study in my classroom. Poetry was the focus. I sent home questtionnaires for both students and parents to respond to in May. One thing I found out was that a few of my boys who were struggling readers liked reading poetry better than other kinds of literature. They enjoyed the "I Can Read" series of poetry books compiled by Lee Bennett Hopkins.



I'm glad you like the giraffe poem. I struggled with it for a loooooong time.


Author Amok,

I have a couple of Merwin's poetry books. I'll have to see if one of them has that poem you mentioned in it.



I'm so happy to think that my poetry posts can be of help to teachers. I loved writing poetry with my elementary students. They wrote some wonderful poems of address over the years.

Brimful Curiosities said...

Loved reading all your posts this month and learning about poetry forms new to me. Can't wait to try using some of your ideas with my kids as they grow older.


Hi Elaine! By coincidence, I featured Hey, You at today! Is there something in the air?

Elaine Magliaro said...

Brimful Curiosities,

I'm glad you enjoyed reading my Poetry Month posts. One thing I do miss in retirement is sharing and writing poetry with kids.

Kurious Kitty,

You know what they say: Great minds think alike!

I've written up so many posts on mask poems that I thought it was about time I talked about apostrophe/poems of address on my blog. My students really enjoyed writing them too.

Tricia said...

Thank you for sharing these poems. I have learned much by seeing your pencil poem in a variety of forms. I need to apply this strategy to some of my own poems. They may actually be better in another form! At the very least it will force me to rethink them as I revise.

Thanks too for all you shared this month.

Laura Evans said...


I like how you rewrote the pencil poem, too.

Thanks for sharing it.

all things poetry

Mary Lee said...

Your poetry research sounds fascinating! What unexpected results! I'm thinking we need to apply what you learned at my school with our kiddos.

soulsearcher said...

it's also good to engage kids in reading enhances the's also better than just to watch movies free online and limit one's creativity..

jama said...

You amaze me with all your different collections!

Love the giraffe poem, and as others have said, it's interesting to see your poems in different forms. Thanks for all you've shared during NPM!