A page from the "Poetry through the Ages" exhibit...

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Level: Middle School and High School
Time for Activity: One quarter of a creative writing class. This is also an excellent term project.
Materials Needed:
  • Heavy colored paper, such as construction or glossy paper.
  • (Optional) Computer design program such as Pagemaker, QuarkXpress, Photoshop, or Microsoft Word’s design features.


To use the form studies in "Poetry through the Ages" to write a series of poems and build them into a chapbook that can be copied or published. Have students use three or more forms, including one poem written and delineated in the SpicyNodes format , plus other forms of their choosing. Have them carefully think of themes, issues, and experiences they want to portray, and then develop 12 to 30 poems.

Action Steps:

  1. Study the forms in "Poetry through the Ages" while also practicing writing poems in three of the forms you like most. If you like other forms not featured in this exhibit (tanka, cinquain, quatrains, and so forth), play with those as well.
  2. Study the Spicy Nodes form, and find a poem you’d like to try in this form. Make sure you choose subjects that will give you plenty of possibilities for further development, so the reader can make his or her own connections from what you present.
  3. Take a few weeks writing poems. Write about anything that moves you emotionally or physically, or intellectually, plus events, creatures, or moments you observe. Try to write at least one poem in each of three forms you chose from this exhibit; otherwise, write in free verse or any other form that you like.
  4. Polish each poem to make sure the words, lines, and the voice of the poem is perfect for you. Read each poem aloud, several times. When it flows like honey and you can feel the experience behind the words, you own a completed poem.
  5. Take your finished poems and lay them out on the floor. Arrange and rearrange them as though you were building a wall from carefully cut bricks. Keep arranging them until you find an order that you like. Let your eyes and your heart tell you the order.
  6. Put your poems together, make sure you like the titles, and create a table of contents. Try to set your files in a 5½ x 8½ page format, so you can create a book.
  7. Get some heavy construction-like paper, and make a cover for your book. Draw, sketch, paint, or paste on a photograph for the cover. You can also use Photoshop or another computer tool to design the cover, but go through the exercise of printing it on heavy stock paper to experience making a book with a cover.
  8. Write a dedication and acknowledgments page for anyone who helped you or to whom you’d like to dedicate the chapbook. This is always exciting, because it means that you’re finished!
  9. Take your chapbook file to a FedEx/Kinko’s or other copier, and have them copy, collate, cut, and staple the book into its final form. Be sure to order heavy stock for the cover. If you’re into the craftsmanship of bookmaking, you can do the collating, cutting and stapling yourself.
  10. Present your chapbook to the class, and either give or sell copies (for $2 or $3 apiece) to your family and friends. Read your entire chapbook to the class, tell the stories behind the poems, and become the featured published poet.