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Night at the Classroom (A Poetry Prompt)

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Dot Hosford was an eccentric teacher with a penchant for hands-on instruction. Eschewing traditional teaching metrics, Ms. Hosford encouraged us to create. We recreated Odysseus’ bow, and wrote the Siren’s song. We recast portions of the Canterbury Tales in flash fiction pieces set in a modern high-school cafeteria. We paper mâchéd, sculpted, or drew Grendel, his mother, and the dragon of Beowulf. For end-of-the-year bonus points, we filmed the the hanging of John the Savage (maybe that one was a bit over the top).

Ms. Hosford had two simple rules about projects turned in for class credit: (1) all creative works, whether works of art, short stories, or otherwise, were hung on her wall, from her rafters, or perched on window sills; and (2) no work was removed from its place until it fell of its own volition. This being the case, entering Ms. Hosford’s classroom was an unforgettable, if not slightly disorienting experience. Dragons, monsters, and numerous paper mâché ravens clung to the walls and hung from the ceiling, peering at you from their respective perches. Tin-foil swords hung precariously from fishing line. Medusa and her coat-hanger serpentine hair peered at you from above Ms. Hosford’s desk. From time to time, a project would fall from the wall with a tumble, and Ms. Hosford would pick it up, tell us the story of the student who created the work, and then somberly walk it to the trashcan, where it would meet its end – sometimes twenty years after its creation.

As a student, I often fantasized that the projects came to life at night, that mother Grendel lamented over the charcoal rendering of her slain offspring. I imagined that Medusa’s wire hair slithered as the Raven squawked Nevermore from the corner. I thought of the clay Beowulf, and the balsa wood Odysseus, how they must have felt compelled to slay the many beasts. I supposed that only the vanquished heroes and creatures fell from the wall.

We all have our day, after all.

When I think of epic poetry, I think of Ms. Hosford. She taught us to bring our sense of imagination to the text, to participate in it. She wanted us to get the story under our fingernails, literally and figuratively. And to this day, I consider her the queen of the literature teachers, the most effective at her craft.

Which brings us to this week’s poetry prompt.

Poetry Prompt: This week, let’s bring our senses of imagination and creativity to the theme “dragons and creatures.” Pick any famous creature from literature, or create your own. Pen a poem involving the creature. Play with setting, form and structure, and use concrete details. Above all, have fun and stretch the limits of your creativity. (And if you create a paper mâché Grendel, we’ll award you bonus points and perhaps find a wall on which to hang the picture.)

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Tweetspeak’s April Dragons and Creatures Poetry Prompt:

This month’s poetry theme at Tweetspeak is Dragons and Creatures, and we’ll be composing epic poems. I’m sure of it. How do you participate?

1. Pick a creature…any creature. Need some ideas? Check out this complete list of mythical creatures. Or listen to our very own Dragons and Creatures playlist.

2.  Compose your own poem about a dragon or creature.

3. Tweet your poems to us. Add a #TSCreatures hashtag so we can find it and maybe share it with the world.

4. If you aren’t a Twitter user, leave your poem here in the comment box.

5. At the end of the month, we’ll choose a poem to feature in one of our upcoming Weekly Top 10 Poetic Picks.

Last week, Tammy offered a fun piece of light verse relating to the “Sandman.” In it, she writes, in part:

What bedtime tale

would any good parent speak

to strike fear

so a child would sleep?

Oh, I ain’t a-sleepin’

‘though my covers quake

I’m holding out

’til there’s no sand to shake.

Move right along

and don’t stop here

bringing your “f” that ends in “ear”.

Visit last week’s poetry prompt for Tammy’s full poem, and for the rest of the selections.  Now, it’s open season on dragons and creatures. Who’s first?

Photo by  UggBoy♥UggGirl, Creative Commons via Flickr. Post by Seth Haines

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Buy a year of Every Day Poems, just $5.99 — Read a poem a day, become a better poet. In April we’re exploring the poetry theme Dragons and Creatures.

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Your Comments

7 Comments so far

  1. What a wonderfully creative environment Ms. Hosford created. Your description makes me wonder what her home must have been like.

    • Seth Haines says:

      She was the best, Maureen. Incidentally, she lived with my High School anatomy teacher, who was a stickler for detail and ran the most organized classroom I’ve ever seen.

      No lie.

  2. Oh, I think I would have loved Ms. Hosford’s class. The only education I wanted past high school was in writing or painting. Yet I did neither as I skipped college for world-traveling. Also, thanks for the mention and your nice comment from the original poem location. :)

  3. Don’t expect a dragon

    to wash behind his ears,
    run a race, pray Your Grace,

    or snap his brace and cheer.
    A dragon will never ever

    wash your socks in tears,
    swivel his lips or mince two

    hips or quote rude quips
    in fear. Let him run around

    or behind you — his rhyme
    in time might delight, too —

    but anchovies to eat
    he’ll stuff in pigs’ feet, and tweet

    with a beat to astound you.
    Tweak his nose in mid-air,

    play him scales in his lair,
    let him roar if he snores: a kazoo.

    Spin his tale without fail,
    let old knights him regale;

    if his yarn’s done no harm,
    he’ll still bite you!

  4. Marcy Terwilliger says:

    This is Art School room 203, teacher is old Miss Barton and being creative helps me. Each week we have a project made by young hands, some old. Clay, mold, shape and make into something bold. Steel, copper, bending, twisting, each a different trick. Holy Cow would you look at that, it gives me quite a smile. Figures thin wrapped around each other, gloves on to keep hands from slices of fine copper. Sharp knives and cutting scissors a regular Edward Scissor hand we have but all in all if I can write like Maureen Doallas is what I really want to do. She’s good, she’s unique she’s got a flair for words, Maureen I read all your writings and enjoy every word.


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