For Jim Whitehead
I broom it to the door. It flies
inside to my voice
Bird, be calm.
from her book Squeezers
Concrete Wolf, 2004
Used with permission of the poet
Lesson Plan for Alison Pelegrin’s Poem, “Bird Inside”
by Nancy Jaynes
Before reading the poem with the class, I’d begin with a discussion. I’d ask, “Have you ever experienced having a small animal get trapped inside your house— perhaps a squirrel or a bird or something like that?” Students would share, and then I’d ask them to describe how it felt when this happened. I’d write those words on the board and encircle them, saying, “We’ll come back to these words a little later.” (I’m assuming that “fear,” “discomfort,” “excitement,” and “anxiety” and similar words would be on the brainstormed list, and if not, I’d lead the conversation there.)
Then we’d read the poem. I would ask the kids what they notice about the use of the word “broom.” (For homework over a several day period, I’d have students compile a list of nouns used as verbs.)
I’d ask the students if they can think of other examples of nouns used as verbs. (I might make this a homework I’d ask the following questions, allowing time between each question for sharing, “What’s going on in this poem? Why would this person call her voice a thunderstorm? What is she suggesting about the bird? About herself?” We’d return to the emotions listed on the board and discuss how they might add insight to the poem.
I would ask the students to notice the dedication, “For Jim Whitehead.” I’d ask if they think we’re meant to know who that person is. “If not, why would the poet include it?“
As a follow-up, we’d explore some other poems with dedications. For a writing activity, I’d ask students to create a new Seed Book journal listing of people and/or things to whom or to which they could imagine dedicating a poem. I’d point out that not all dedications are positive. At any rate, I’d ask them to list connections. I’d ask them to consider famous people as well as family members, friends, former friends, pets, etc. I’d then ask students to write a poem and dedicate it to one from this list, which we’d call “Dedications Obvious and Obscure.”