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How to Write Poems about Feelings

by Bruce Lansky

Some of the most memorable poems ever written are about feelings ("How do I love thee?/Let me count the ways").
Here's a good way to get your students thinking about poems that discuss feelings:

1. Ask your students to name as many feelings as they can. To get them started, write "sad," "mad," "happy," and a few others on the board. As your students think of more feelings, add them to the list.

2. Ask the students to choose one feeling from the list.

3. Have the students write down their answers to one of the following questions:

-When do I feel [insert feeling]?

-Why do I feel [insert feeling]?

-How does it feel to be [insert feeling]?

Their answers will become the poems, although you may encourage them to revise and polish their poems as needed. What will make these poems work best is if they tell a story or if the reader can learn something about the writer from the poem. Often it's easier to write about feelings in free verse-so tell your students they don't need to worry about rhythm and rhyme patterns.


Here's an example:

I feel miserable when…

I have a big math test coming up so I have to study instead of watching my favorite TV show

my mother doesn't believe I have a fever, so I can't stay home and miss a
big math test I didn't study for

my teacher doesn't believe I have a fever and refuses to send me to the school nurse until after the math test

I get a "D" on the math test

Bruce Lansky © 2002

Here's another example that answers two questions: "When do I feel happy?" and "What is it like to feel happy?" (Notice that this poem is a good way to stimulate metaphorical thinking.)

When Santa brings me the toy I wanted most for Christmas I'm so happy I feel like:

singing at the top of my lungs

jumping in a mud puddle (too bad it's December and the puddle is covered with ice)

raiding the cookie jar and eating all the cookies

playing with my new toy all day and not letting my bratty little brother touch it for a single second (which, as I recall, is why my parents took away my favorite Christmas toy last year and hid it from me for one whole week)

Bruce Lansky © 2002

Finally, here's an example of a finished poem about what happens when you feel a little dazed and confused after a kiss:

Scrambled

I climbed up the door and
I opened the stairs.
I said my pajamas
and buttoned my prayers.

I turned off the covers
and pulled up the light.
I'm all scrambled up since
she kissed me last night.

© 1996 by Bruce Lansky, reprinted from My Dog Ate My Homework published by Meadowbrook Press.

Note: If some of your students produce confused or poorly written poems dealing with some "heavy" personal issues, they may need your help in discussing the experience and sorting out exactly what it is they felt before they can productively revise the poem. Or it might make sense for you to provide a comforting, supportive presence and leave the discussion of how best to fix the poem for later-when the student isn't feeling quite so confused or vulnerable.

-Bruce Lansky


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    My Dog Ate My Homework!